Archive: Higher Education

Building an Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge Initiative at a Research University: Decolonization Notes from the Field

By Michelle Jacob and Hobie Blackhorn

Abstract: In this article, we discuss the importance of Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge as the foundation of sustainability education, and we describe the need for, and successful efforts to, begin building an Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge initiative at a research university. We share the guiding theoretical framework of our work, and the three goals of the initiative. We note the tensions involved in crafting a vision statement that a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students can all uphold in our collective work. We conclude with a description of our next planned steps for the initiative, and our hopes that this work will help decolonize sustainability education.

Continue Reading

A creative vision of sustainability: How informal educational avenues may impact change

By Rachel J. Eike, Sissy Osteen and Erin Irick

A sustainably-minded and technology-driven 2032 scenario was created to illustrate subtle attitudes and habits of characters based upon their collegiate informal learning and leadership experiences while earning an undergraduate degree. The creative scenario suggests that, based upon findings from a SLfSD (student leaders for sustainable development) study, leadership components may be identified and cultivated through informal educational avenues (i.e. student organization involvement) to help communicate and transition others to think and act in more environmentally-minded manners. The objective of the study was to explore the leadership components (leadership roles, personal capacities, and styles) of SLfSD. Quantitative, multivariate regression analysis of purposive sampling of student attendees of the 2013 AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) revealed interesting influencers of leadership styles and personal capacities, including the interaction of gender, age, ethnicity, and leadership role (aspiring vs. formal leaders). This research suggests that SLfSD possess dynamic capacities and preferences that can impact the necessity for and effectiveness of sustainability-focused programming.

Continue Reading

Determining Essential Components of a College-level Bioenergy Curriculum in the United States Using the Delphi Technique

By Kimi Grzyb, Brian Hartman and Katharine Field

In order to develop bioenergy into a viable industry capable of providing valuable energy and employment, there is an immediate need for a workforce prepared for the impending challenges of this emerging, interdisciplinary industry. To meet this need, it is necessary to identify and prioritize the topics that should be included in a college-level bioenergy curriculum. We implemented a three-round Delphi study to determine components of a college bioenergy curriculum in the US, by establishing consensus among a panel of American bioenergy experts. Round One consisted of a single open-ended question: Keeping in mind the future of a commercial bioenergy industry, what content knowledge should a student have upon completion of a college-level bioenergy curriculum? Responses were qualitatively coded into themes, and experts were asked to rate the importance of each theme using a five-point Likert-type scale during subsequent rounds. The final round resulted in 13 themes: Energy Basics, Types of Bioenergy, Environmental Impacts (including Life Cycle Analysis), Current Technologies, Societal Issues, Logistics, Policy, Biomass Composition, Non-Bioenergy-Specific Fundamentals, Biomass Production, Conversions, Bioenergy Market, and Business-Related Knowledge. Results will be used to bolster the existing bioenergy education initiative at Oregon State University, and can provide guidance to other institutions in the US and abroad interested in developing similar bioenergy education programs.

Continue Reading

Embodying education: performing environmental meanings, knowledges, and transformations

By José Castro-Sotomayor, Jeff Hoffmann, Melissa Parks, Maggie Siebert, Mariko Thomas and Tema Milstein

This essay presents an exploration of a wide spectrum of current ecocultural relations through the creative methodology and expression of performance. We present a script of a performance inspired by a seemingly simple prompt for a pedagogical free write exercise “When I say ‘nature,’ I mean…” The goal of the free write exercise is to illuminate and open up for questioning and transforming our cultural assumptions, embodied meanings, and social constructions associated with the idea of “nature.” The authors/performers reflect about the process of creation and their intimate struggles with environmental ideologies often hidden behind the veil of common sense, political posturings, or disciplined concealments. As an art form, performance allows engagement with imaginations that emerged as radical, thus insinuating the need for a more nuanced and free scholarship, as well as for embracing performance as liberating pedagogic activism.

Continue Reading

Cultivating Change: A Cross-Age Arts, Literacy, and Sustainability Project

By Joyce Kinkead, Andrea Melnick and Olivia Webb

This essay describes a project in which a 4th grade class joined forces with a university class to study and produce as theatre Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks, an inspiring story of a diverse group of community residents who transform a vacant urban lot into a wonderful community garden. In addition to the arts component, the two teachers unexpectedly found an opportunity to encourage sustainability of education when their students embarked on a pen pal correspondence.

Continue Reading

Old Material…New Material

By Helen Turner

Many educators teach the topic of sustainability, but how many do so in a sustainable manner? From the requirement of textbooks, to paper for printed syllabi or assignments, higher education is a consumer of resources. The materials of design education, however, expand to include media like trace paper for ideation or foamcore for model making, as a means of communicating ideas. Yet, following presentations and grades, a majority of these physical materials enter the waste stream while digital versions populate online portfolios. Hence, design education provides a unique and transferable lens to explore an inquiry-based collection, documentation, exhibition and repurposing of discarded materials, to render new insights and re- imagine pedagogical practices, wherein learning and deliverables truly reflect the values and discourse of sustainability.

Continue Reading

Conceptions of Sustainability within the Redesigned K-12 Curriculum in British Columbia, Canada: Mapping a disputed terrain

By Gerald Fallon, Robert VanWynsberghe and Patrick Robertson

The purpose of this policy study is to provide to educators and curriculum writers a critical account of the diversity and contestability of the conceptions of sustainability embedded into the policies and processes related to the transformation of K-12 curriculum in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada. First, we examine the different conceptions of sustainability within the context of distinctive socio-cultural paradigms: the industrial, the existentialist, and the symbio-synergetic. Second, we address the following key questions: in what socio-cultural paradigm is the dominant conception of sustainability grounded in new K-12 curriculum policy in B.C. and in which ways does that paradigm question the dominant industrial notion of modernity and development?

Continue Reading

Sustainability and the Olympics: The case of the 2016 Rio Summer Games

By Sylvia Trendafilova, Jeffrey Graham and James Bemiller

The Olympic Games are the ultimate mega sporting event with not only hundreds of thousands of athletes, but also hundreds of thousands of spectators, volunteers, media, and security personnel. The Olympics concentrate a large number of people in a confined space (one city or even specific areas within the city) over a relatively small period of time (two weeks), thus introducing inevitable hardship to the natural environment. This case study focuses on the challenges Rio faced in preparation to stage and host the 2016 Summer Olympics Games, and at the same time provide an environment safe to all. More specifically, the case focuses on the water quality in Rio and the associated health risks for athletes competing in the open water events. This case study provides students with knowledge about the history of environmental sustainability in the Olympics and prepares them for a career in a global industry that is increasingly focusing on and implementing environmental initiatives.

Continue Reading

Environmental education in teacher education programs: Incorporation and use of professional guidelines

By Rebecca L. Franzen

Faced with everything from climate change to resource depletion, citizens must be environmentally literate. One path to literacy is through teacher education. Participants in this U.S.-based study completed a survey, indicating teaching methods and assessment strategies used to address the Guidelines for the Preparation and Professional Development of Environmental Educators themes. Although many indicated unfamiliarity with the Preparation Guidelines, the majority address them in their teaching. Fostering Learning, Environmental Literacy, and Planning and Implementing Environmental Education were commonly addressed, while Foundations of Environmental Education was not frequently addressed. Discussion, inquiry-based learning, and assigned readings were often used teaching methods, while lesson plans and reflections were common assessments. The results suggest that faculty members are implicitly including EE and that there are gaps in meeting the competencies in EE.

Continue Reading

University Students and Sustainability. Part 1: Attitudes, Perceptions, and Habits

By Kurt Rosentrater and Brianna R. Burke

Increased understanding amongst scientists and the general public about anthropogenic impacts in general, and climate change in particular, behooves us as educators to adjust our courses and curricula. “Sustainability” and “green” topics are increasingly being discussed and incorporated, but this should be done with deliberation. We undertook this study to understand attitudes, perceptions, and habits of the student body at Iowa State University, with a focus on environmental knowledge and behaviors. Overall, we found that, regardless of demographic, students appear to be interested in environmental topics, reducing their footprint, and improving the environment overall. But, they did not necessarily want to pay more, nor did they fully embrace personal responsibility.

Continue Reading

Bridging the boundaries of science and art for business students: Integrating botany and artistic perspectives to teach environmental literacy

By Vikki L. Rodgers and Danielle Krcmar

Engaging students not majoring in science, sustainability or environmental studies in learning environmental literacy and shifting their attitudes and behavior toward nature often requires a multi-perspective approach and presents unique challenges. We sought to: (1) pair artistic perspectives with botanical concepts to educate and interest our students in learning environmental literacy, (2) engage our students in careful observation and visualization of nature, and (3) increase the environmental sensitivity of our students by connecting botany with nature based art. To do this we designed a pre-class assignment, an in-class botanical art workshop, and a written reflection assignment that asked students to view, conceptualize, and create works of botanical art as a multi-perspectival process of engaging with relevant scientific processes and environmental concerns connected to botany. Here we provide a justification for the value of bridging science with art, detail our approach, describe student survey responses and thoughtful written reflections, and illustrate lessons learned and future plans.

Continue Reading

Essential learning for sustainability: Gifford Pinchot’s lessons for educating leaders today

By Lizzie Summerfield and Sam Wells

Some scholars of leadership for sustainability argue that more research needs to be done on the ‘who’ of leaders, the core drivers of the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their decisions and actions. This paper looks at a leading US figure in sustainability, Gifford Pinchot, who led the establishment of the US Forest Service, and who devoted much of his career to conserving the natural world for the good of his fellow citizens. It describes the formation of the ‘who’ of Pinchot as an adult leader through a focus on his early learning environment in order to point to some essential and timeless principles for the education of leaders of sustainability.

Continue Reading

The re-indigenization of humanity to Mother Earth: A learning platform to cultivate social-ecological resilience and challenge the Anthropocene

By Iain MacKinnon, Lewis Williams and Arianna Waller

Human beings today are living in times of unprecedented social and ecological crisis, a crisis that is to a significant degree of human making. The impending arrival of the Anthropocene geological epoch gives this crisis a name. As academics with a sense of responsibility for our relationships with planetary kin, the awareness of unfolding crisis calls on us to reach a deeper understanding of assumptions about the world, and of modes of living that these assumptions permit, which have been a human contribution to crisis. Furthermore, the Anthropocene calls us to act upon our new understanding. Taking modern European imperialism as a key generative force in the development of Anthropocene, we provocatively develop the idea in this article that the life-ways and worldviews of Indigenous Peoples colonized by European imperialism – including, potentially, marginalized and suppressed life-ways and worldviews of Indigenous Europeans – may hold critical insights by which to negotiate the Anthropocene and to challenge and change habits of thought and action that have led us to its threshold.

In doing so we outline the rationale behind the Alliance for Intergenerational Resilience (AIR) whose objective is to build social-ecological resilience by connecting and supporting locally based projects for the innovative and renovative co-evolution of social and ecological systems. AIR aims to generate inter-cultural relationships between Indigenous communities and communities no longer considered indigenous to place in order to support more meaningful, life-giving social and ecological relationships for all people. In order to further describe AIR’s objectives and its aspirations, the article draws on the Alliance’s inaugural event, the Elders’ Voices Summit, four days of Indigenous-led sustainability education with more than 100 international participants, representing community, university, government, philanthropy and not-for-profit sectors. We conclude by casting our hopes forward to envisage future re-indigenization work that supports the connection and reconnection of human beings with the Earth and the places of the Earth to which we belong.

Continue Reading

Changing the climate of beliefs: A conceptual model of learning design elements to promote climate change literacy

By Katrina Leona Marzetta

Climate change is a difficult subject to teach because it requires complex scientific understandings and is connected to personal beliefs (Spence, Poortinga & Pidgeon, 2012). It is important to teach students the science of climate change and impact their personal beliefs to produce behavior that will mitigate climate change. In this study pre and post surveys focusing on climate change understanding, belief, and behavior were administered. Interviews were also conducted. The quantitative and qualitative data were conflicting, but through triangulated data analysis learning design elements promoting Climate Change Literacy in higher education were identified. A conceptual model was developed with the learning design elements to improve the teaching of Climate Change Literacy. Findings depicted three design elements that increase students’ Climate Change Literacy: 1) Decreasing students’ psychological distance from climate change, 2) Utilizing students’ sense of place, and 3) Student investigation of their own research questions. Increasing students’ Climate Change Literacy is the critical first step in making sustainable societal transformations required for mitigating climate change, our most pressing environmental issue that impacts all people and the natural environment (Spence, Poortinga, & Pidgeon, 2012).

Continue Reading

Breaking down barriers to university-community engagement: a Master’s student-led sustainable agriculture workshop for children in Costa Rica

By Olivia Sylvester, Monika Bianco, Janaya Greenwood and Tiyamike Mkanthama

This article describes a sustainable agriculture workshop designed and led by Master’s students to support university-community engagement in Costa Rica. Our project had three transformative goals: 1) to empower Master’s students as educators, 2) to share food security knowledge with community youth, and 3) to strengthen our university-community relationships for knowledge dissemination. For other scholars who wish to apply principles from our Master’s student-led workshop within their local context, we describe our recommendations as well as areas for improvement regarding our three goals. Despite our workshop successes, it was a volunteer project that competed with the academic workloads of the students and the professor. We suggest that community engagement form part of regular academic obligations and courses to increase its accessibility and to provide more opportunities for Master’s students to transition into educators and practitioners before entering their fields of work.

Continue Reading

World University Sustainability Assessment (WUSA) Tool: Investigating Sustainability Content in Mathematics Subject in Universiti Sains Malaysia

By Siti Fairuz Mohd Radzi and Mohd Sayuti Hassan

ABSTRACT: Sustainability and sustainable development have become one of the dominant topics of discussion among individuals, institutions, companies and universities in response to any global issues with regard to climate change. Many universities including Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) have taken the initiative to instil sustainability element in its programme offered to its prospective student. USM aims to pioneer in sustainability area and become the reference point with regard to sustainability in Malaysia. In this paper, we provide the background of our USM and its goals towards becoming the sustainability-led university in Malaysia. We also introduce the tool that we have developed to help in calculating the percentage of sustainability content in any document. We utilize the tool to help us in investigating whether sustainability element is fully instilled in Mathematics programme offered in School of Mathematics in USM. We also provide our recommendation and future works to further strengthen this study in the future.

Continue Reading

Understanding of Sustainability amongst Students of Management– A Case of Indian Institute of Management, Raipur, State of Chhattisgarh, India

By Pramod Kumar Sharma and Sanjeev Prashar

Abstract: India has compulsory teaching and learning of Environmental Education at all levels of formal education. This was mandated through a Supreme Court directive. This study was conducted using a survey instrument that was used as a proxy of sustainability literacy. The instrument had open-ended questions to gauge the respondent’s perspectives, close ended knowledge-based questions, statements to understand attitudes and their awareness of eco-labelling/certification. The target group of study was the entire batch of 90 students (15 Female and 75 Male) that had joined the postgraduate programme in 2014. The students came with about of year of work experience. The major background was engineering and science with only eight percent with commerce background. All were found to be high achievers in their previous education in school and graduation.

Content analysis of the open ended question showed that 24 percent of the students agreed that economic development at the cost of environment is a short term solution, followed by 16 percent each saying that there is a need to have a balance or economic development should be at the least environmental cost. About seven percent said that economic profit can improve the environment and there is no option left if we need economic development. Only six percent putting comfort over the environment. Although the attitude was very positive, about 62 percent of the students were not able to articulate the difference between the quality of life and standard of living. 75 percent of the respondents supported the compulsory CSR act. 71 percent were in favour of extended producer responsibility. There seems to be a limited understanding of sustainable development and equates it to environmental conservation as any lay person who is informed by mass media. 72 percent did not understand the term Green Washing. The awareness was found to be moderate. Profit maximisation was the understanding as the goal of a business. Nearly half of them were of the opinion that consumers will not pay for environmentally friendly products. Although a high of 89 percent said that eco-labelling has an influence on consumer behaviour, very few of them were aware of eco-labels. Almost all agreed that polluters should pay 67 percent of them also believe that environmental clearances are an impediment to economic growth and 64 percent believe that privatisation leads to better utilisation of resources.

The study shows a pro environment attitude but at the same time a limited understanding of the depth of issues and only the economic centric perspective of sustainable development. Only 16 percent gave some hint of social dimension to sustainable development. Awareness of HDI and GDP was high but connection to quality of life was missing. The environment was high on priority as 24 percent of the students agreed that economic development at the cost of environment is a short term solution, followed by 16 percent each saying that there is a need to have a balance or economic development should be at the least environmental cost. There seems to be a limited understanding of sustainable development and equates it to environmental conservation as any lay person who is informed by mass media.
Also it was found that students were influenced by common business perspective being projected in Indian media. Business is becoming a major driver of sustainable development with increasing production and consumption along with population as a major reason for environmental degradation. It is recommended that social and environment be part of ethical framework of business education. It would be useful if details sustainability literacy assessments are done to inform the business management curriculum for the need to include environmental /sustainability management. The impact of undergraduate discipline was found to influence awareness and perception and hence it is important that the management curriculum removes the gap in sustainability literacy amongst students.

Continue Reading

Developing Culturally Responsive Teaching Through Learner-Centered Teaching During Content and Field Immersions

By Donald J. Burgess, Scheree Dowdy and Carly Boyd

Abstract: Using a mixed methodology, we followed the preparation of fifteen teacher candidates through a summer content immersion and schoolyard ecology field experience as part of their alternative route to teacher certification program. The primary purpose of our summer project was to support and learn from the funds of knowledge of the teacher candidates and migrant youth. Next we sought to determine if a learner-centered teaching, modeled in a content immersion that explored the inner life of cells, could be applied heuristically to co-plan and teach schoolyard ecology. The results suggest that a learner-centered teaching translates well between content and field immersions and can positively support the cultural and community wealth of both candidates and migrant youth while affirming and deepening our appreciation of the local natural world.

Continue Reading

Waiting for Godot: Leadership for sustainability in higher education and the emergence of Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs).

By Paul Kolenick

Abstract: The question is raised about the nature of transformative change with respect to sustainability in higher education. In particular, should this change be reserved for senior administration? Or alternatively, should faculty and staff as the “institutional middle” of higher education be considered as best suited to lead sustainability on campus, and further, in partnership with stakeholders and others with interests in advancing sustainability within wider society. In this respect, Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs), established by the United Nations’ University (UNU) are considered as a way toward transformational change in higher education by bridging the gap between higher education and multiple stakeholders with interests in sustainability. Complexity theory, and particularly the notion of complex adaptive systems (CAS), is applied toward an understanding of RCEs as a venue for sustainability leadership in higher education.

Continue Reading

Connecting through the lens: Cross-cultural perspectives on urban design and water infrastructure using participatory photography as an observational learning tool

By Molly Gail Mehling, Gregory Galford, William Biss, Darlene Motley, Yandi Andri Yatmo and Paramita Atmodiwirjo

This case study shares a unique educational experience that combined sustainability and design education with international partnerships that sought to investigate and visually analyze relationships between housing design and water infrastructure in both Pittsburgh, PA (USA) and urban centers of Indonesia. This project built upon an existing foundation of international relationships between faculty and institutions within a consortium framework. The project used a pre-course and a faculty-led student trip to establish relationships among faculty and students based in the United States (US) and Indonesia and to determine preliminary shared research goals to be built upon for future research collaborations that can attain a deeper and longer-term relationship. Students who participated in these courses refined their visual communication skills, gained a valuable global perspective on urban water management, were exposed to participatory photography as a research tool, and were strongly affected by their cultural experiences in Indonesia. Peer work between US and Indonesian students provided opportunities for students to exchange ideas and perceptions about the observed environment, which are influenced by their familiarity and unfamiliarity with the setting. The experience of this project can serve as a primer for the sustainability educator who is interested in interdisciplinary and international educational endeavors.

Continue Reading

An innovator for our times: George Goyder and Australian forestry

By Lizzie Summerfield

Abstract Innovation for sustainable environments is typically thought of as synonymous with the scientific and the future. This paper argues that historical stories about innovation to create sustainable communities in the past has a contribution to make to research and teaching in the field. It outlines the innovation of forestry in Australia in the nineteenth century, and the thought leadership of the prominent public servant who realized it. It argues that, together with science, students of sustainable environments need to learn to think holistically, framed first by an ethical vision of what a sustainable civil society looks like.

Continue Reading

Worldviews, A Mental Construct Hiding the Potential of Human Behaviour: A New Learning Framework to Guide Education for Sustainable Development

By Emilia de la Sienra, Tanzi Smith and Cynthia Mitchell

Abstract: Latest results in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) research and practice show a tendency towards more holistic approaches aiming at deep transformation of the self and the meanings of human existence. Aligned with this, we present the Transdisciplinary Framework of Worldviews and Behaviours (TFWB) to describe the possible formation and expression of a worldview, a complex constellation of meaning and identity from which all human conduct emerges. Four key principles arising from the TFWB are: 1) The whole embodied nervous system is greater than the sum of its separated parts, especially when it comes to intelligence (information processing) and learning (meaning making); 2) The mind is a highly emotion-dependent and mostly unconscious entity; 3) A worldview is a unique arrangement of meaning each person builds, and lives through; and 4) Increasing self-awareness about how a personal worldview is formed and expressed generates increasing opportunities for that individual to explore and build a different meaning for their experience, or to explore and choose different forms to express it (behave). The TFWB informs a new perspective on learning that could be useful for the achievement of ESD’s transformative goals, guiding the innovative design of educational initiatives encouraging new conceptualizations about the meanings of being human; thus, facilitating potential behavioural transformations toward a more sustainable existence.

Continue Reading

Critical sustainability studies: A holistic and visionary conception of socio-ecological conscientization

By Felipe Ferreira

Abstract: Sustainability has the potential to provide a holistic framework that can bridge the gap that is often found between socio-economic justice and environmental discourses. However, sustainability and sustainability education have typically accepted the prevailing socio-economic and cultural paradigm. It is my aim in this paper to demonstrate that a truly holistic and visionary sustainability (education) framework ought to demand radical and critical theories and solutions- based approaches to politicize and interrogate the premises, assumptions, and biases linked to the dominant notion of sustainability. If we are to envision and construe actual sustainable futures, we must first understand what brought us here, where the roots of the problems lie, and how the sustainability discourse and framework tackle—or fail to tackle—them. To do this is to politicize sustainability, to build a critical perspective of and about sustainability. It is an act of conscientização (or conscientization), to borrow Paulo Freire’s seminal term, of cultivating critical consciousness and conscience. In lieu of the standard articulation of politics as centralized state administration, ‘critical sustainability studies’ is based on a framing that gives prominence to a more organic, decentralized engagement of conscientious subjects in the creation of just, regenerative eco-social relations. It illuminates the ideological and material links between society, culture, and ecology by devoting particular attention to how knowledge and discourse around and across those realms are generated and articulated. I believe that future scholarship and activism in sustainability and sustainability- related fields would benefit immensely from dialoguing with this framework.

Continue Reading

Future Casting: Back to the Future

By Zenobia Barlow and Michael K. Stone

Future casting for us begins with going back — to the real basics, to understanding our place and the people who sustained themselves here for hundreds of years, engaging in real-world problem solving in pursuit of “the right kind of change at the right time.”

Continue Reading

Preparing the Future Sustainable Energy Workforce and The Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education

By Kenneth A. Walz and Joel B. Shoemaker

Abstract: When examining energy consumption in human history, it is evident that society is entering a new era where the costs of energy generation from renewable sources are now competitive with fossil fuel generation. In light of this advance, this report examines recent milestones in the renewable energy sector, and projects what the near future might hold. In the years ahead, growth in the renewable industry will create increased demand for a trained workforce of scientists, engineers, and technicians with knowledge of renewable energy. Faculty development and educational programs will play a key role in preparing the next generation of renewable energy professionals. This report highlights the impact of one such initiative that was funded by the National Science Foundation. Educators are called to join the effort to create a sustainable future powered by renewable energy.

Continue Reading

University-Museum Partnerships: Reflections on Programmatic Best Practices for Sustainability Collaborations

By Sandra Rodegher and Stacey Freeman

Abstract: In order to effectively address global sustainability challenges, a wide spectrum of society must be engaged. Universities generate knowledge, enhance understanding of sustainability problems and identify potential pathways to solutions. However, the information they produce often does not reach the public sector. Primary and secondary schools contain expert teachers and science communicators, but they are often limited by educational standards and other teaching duties. On the other hand, museums, such as science and natural history museums, are particularly skilled at translating scientific information so that it engages and excites the general public without the limiting expectations of school systems. Thus, partnerships between museums and universities offer great potential for disseminating sustainability knowledge and solutions on a global scale. However, given the complexity of sustainability problems, partnerships between universities and museums require a deep level of collaboration beyond the scope of information or resource exchange. In this article, we explore our experiences collaborating with museums, reflecting on challenges and, ultimately, identifying four main focal areas to successful, transformational collaborations. Though we focus on museum partnerships from the university perspective, we contend that any institution can apply these four steps to make progress on wicked problems that require immediate action.

Continue Reading

Environmental Literacy in Environmentally Themed Higher Education Courses

By Jordan A. King and Rebecca L. Franzen

Abstract: This study sought to determine the influence of environmentally themed higher education courses upon students’ self-perceptions of their environmental literacy. Past research has suggested mixed conclusions about the objectives, approaches, and impacts of environmental and sustainability education in higher education. This study assessed environmental literacy and the influence of pedagogical perspective and instructor emphasis in environmentally themed higher education courses. Using the Hollweg et al. (2011) framework for environmental literacy, the study assessed students’ self-perceptions of their environmental literacy in a pre- and post-test format. Data were analyzed using a paired samples t-test and one-way ANOVA with a Tukey HSD post-hoc test. The results of the study showed that environmentally themed higher education courses are having a significant influence on students’ self-perceptions of their environmental literacy. However, instructors seemed to emphasize behavior least of the four aspects of environmental literacy. These findings suggest that environmentally themed courses are having a strong impact, yet further integration of environmental education principles may be meaningful. This study clarifies the impact of environmentally themed higher education courses. The distinction between pedagogical perspectives delineates new understandings of the differences in environmental literacy change. This study serves as a ground for future research to build the implementation of environmental education in higher education.

Continue Reading

The Future of Sustainability in Higher Education

By Nathan Hensley

Abstract: In this article, I explore the future of higher education within the context of teaching and learning for sustainability. Challenges currently facing sustainability education are identified along with opportunities to face these challenges in ways that are transdisciplinary and holistic. I make the case that envisioning the future of sustainability education enables practitioners and educational theorists to better meet the needs of today’s generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). My vision of the future of sustainability education in higher education is grounded in transformative, experiential, and place-based approaches. Engaging students in authentic inquiry in the classroom enables students to become better citizens and stronger problem solvers within the context of sustainability and beyond.

Continue Reading

Reframing Humankind’s Relationship with Nature: Contributions from Social Exchange Theory

By Keri Schwab, Daniel Dustin and Kelly Bricker

Abstract: In this paper we compare and contrast the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1985) with Social Exchange Theory (Homans, 1958) as conceptual foundations for eliciting pro-environmental behavior. We reason that Social Exchange Theory provides the better orientation because of its metaphorical power in casting humankind as being in a reciprocal relationship with nature rather than being in a superior position over nature. We illustrate our thinking by discussing ecosystem services (Melillo & Sala, 2008) as nature’s contribution to humankind in return for humankind’s responsible environmental stewardship.

Continue Reading

Encouraging Revolving Door Usage in a Mixed-Use Building: The Influence of Visual Prompts and Descriptive Social Norms

By Jeffrey Louis Perrin and Perrin Dumar

Abstract: This field experiment investigated effects of a descriptive norms-based sign combined with five footprint sticker decal prompts directing individuals to help save energy by using a revolving door, as opposed to a swing door, to exit a mixed-use building. We found that the percentage of individuals using the revolving door increased in both conditions (weekday and weekend day) after we implemented the sign and decals. Notable considerations in creating descriptive norms-based signage to encourage environmentally responsible behavior in mixed use buildings are discussed.

Continue Reading

Increasing a Sense of Place Using Blended Online and On Site Learning

By Tina L. Salata

Abstract: Finding time for place-based instruction can be difficult using a traditional ground classroom or online format. This is a case study report showing how blending the two modalities can increase opportunities to go more in depth on environmental topics. This blending of both classroom and online creates a sense of place and encourages teaching with multiple learning styles. The increased classroom flexibility allows more individualized instruction for student’s needs and interests. This report will share how an environmental biology class implemented a blended learning class over two semesters. Results of this pilot show an increased student effort by allowing for more varied learning about the local environment.

Continue Reading

Making Sustainable Development Real Through Role-Play: “The Mekong Game” Example

By Andrew Perlstein, Michael Mortimer, David Robertson and Holly Wise

Abstract:
This paper describes a role-playing, negotiation “game” based on the Xayaburi Dam in Laos. We have used this activity in our graduate programs as a tool for bringing to life the complexities of decision-making around natural resources, economic development, and sustainability. Over the past several years of using the game in the classroom, we have found it to be an effective means of exposing students to the kinds of opportunities and constraints that different stakeholders face as well as the kinds of communication and negotiation tactics they might use to influence outcomes. We provide background on the real-world situation on which we based the fictional scenario for the game and discuss the learning outcomes we have observed.

Continue Reading

The new “Three Rs” in an Age of Climate Change: Reclamation, Resilience, and Regeneration as Possible Approaches for Climate-Responsive Environmental and Sustainability Education

By Marna Hauk

Abstract: This thought piece proposes the adoption of a new “3 Rs” to inform a climate-responsive environmental and sustainability education (CRESE): reclamation, resilience, and regeneration. As a changing climate becomes the larger campus of our learning, denial and top-down emergency preparedness both prove to be insufficient. We are invited into a deeper approach. Reclamation and resilience fold in (1) the saving of enduring biocultural lifeways and patterns and (2) the dynamic flux-states of panarchic socioecological resilience models. These two partner with (3) regeneration: context-responsive social collaborations; eco-socially-embedded capacity building systems; and the promise of regenerative design. These three approaches allow us to re-envision educational systems and encounters that are proactive rather than only reactive or responsive in metabolizing persistent climatic volatility. These three approaches – reclamation, resilience, and regeneration – echo the three approaches to climate change that Pelling has suggested (2009) – mitigation, adaptation, and transformation. Note, however, unlike Pelling’s model, these approaches are conceived as simultaneously requisite literacies and movements rather than as competing. Reclamation, resilience, and regeneration represent ever-more-complex types of capacities and support capacity building aimed together toward life-supportive, dynamic, complex systems transformations. Environmental and sustainability education that fosters skills of reclamation includes preservation, conservation, recording, and the establishment of libraries and sanctuaries of exemplar systems. Environmental and sustainability education (ESE) for resilience includes network extension and adaptive capacity building. ESE for regeneration nurtures emergent complex systems metacognitions, creativities, and transformative, transgressive social approaches that are connective, disruptive, and innovative and model and embody complex emergence. Regenerative ESE fosters skills to facilitate catalysis of emergent regeneration, self-organization, and transformation into more complex living systems. All of these position embedded learners in pro-active, systems-intensive embodiments of the types of living networks that foster survival, flexibility, thriving, and phase-change during our entry into a time of consistent climate turbulence.

Continue Reading

Alive, Survive, Strive, Thrive: A Grounded Conceptual Sustainability Taxonomy

By Kenneth W. Borland

Abstract: A conceptual sustainability taxonomy has been needed to better communicate the value of sustainability, to align sustainability scholars’ theories and sustainability educators’ practices, and to develop curriculum, teaching, learning, and assessment to enhance college students’ comprehension of and commitment to sustainability across general, major, and co-curriculum. Original conceptual research, including the grounding of a conceptual sustainability taxonomy with early career student affairs educators in higher education, presents a grounded conceptual sustainability taxonomy (Alive, Survive, Strive, Thrive) for educating college students and initiating scholar-practitioner contemplation, discussion, and research.

Continue Reading

Learning through place: Evaluation of a professional development program for understanding the impact of place-based education and teacher continuing education needs

By Katherine Linnemanstons and Catherine Jordan

We report an evaluation of a place-based education (PBE) teacher professional development program that aimed to understand the perceived impact of PBE on students and teachers, constraints to implementation of PBE in schools, and strengths and limitations of the professional development program, as identified by teachers. Nine teachers, the full 2014 cohort of participants in Wilderness Inquiry’s PBE professional development program, completed a written reflection exercise and were interviewed following the implementation of a PBE lesson or unit developed as part of their professional development program. Findings indicate that teachers perceived PBE to have several important impacts on students, including stronger engagement in learning, enhanced collaboration, and heightened significance for the concepts learned. Teachers also perceived impact on themselves, including professional growth, sense of fulfillment and an expanded repertoire of teaching approaches. However, there were perceived constraints to implementing PBE, including support from peers and administrators, time, money, weather, and the composition of the class. This research adds to a growing body of research reporting positive impacts of PBE. Teachers’ feedback on the professional development program highlighted specific aspects of an effective professional development program. An enhanced understanding of the benefits of and challenges to PBE and program characteristics that maximize teachers’ time at a professional development program will help educators and curriculum developers to better support, develop, and encourage the implementation of PBE in standardized curriculum.

Continue Reading

Immerse in Your Watershed: Problem-Based, Service Learning for Undergraduate Sustainability Education

By Dina Chammas-Gass

This case study describes a problem-based and service learning module in which undergraduate students participated in a community-based project. Students joined a group consisting of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), public and private organizations, concerned citizens, and city officials to tackle issues concerning the local watershed. The case study took place over a number of years from 2014 to 2016 and will continue in subsequent academic years with a new group of multidisciplinary students.
Students put together documentation for a grant application that resulted in the city receiving $2.5 million dollars in grant money towards sustainable stormwater management systems. This aspect of the project included extensive data collection and analysis, much like the kind of work water conservationist in the field would perform. Students continued the work by using the data to plan and design appropriate, site-specific best management practices (BMPs) for the campus and in subsequent courses will implement these designs on site.
The mode of instruction described in this case study proved quite engaging to the students because it put them in the heart of an actual local project, doing work that was removed from a purely academic exercise – thereby offering a real-world scenario as field employees. The goal is to provide hands-on instruction that inspires and engages students and allows them to apply concepts of watershed management as a service to their local community.

Continue Reading

Examining the Influence of Outdoor Recreation, Employment, and Demographic Variables on the Human-Nature Relationship

By Kelly Cartwright and Denise Mitten

The human-nature relationship can be quantified using connection to nature indicators. A mail survey of conservation gardeners (n = 180) provided insight into four such indicators (Connectedness to Nature Scale, Nature Relatedness Scale, Environmental Motives Scale, and Inclusion of Nature in Self Scale). The indicators selected allowed for the evaluation of nine parameters in relationship to the outdoor recreation, employment, and demographic characteristics of individuals. The outdoor recreation categories resulted in the highest number of significant relationships. Non-consumptive activities, such as bird watching and hiking, were positively correlated with indicators reflecting equality with nature. Consumptive activities (fishing, hunting) and those requiring equipment or movement away from home (backpacking, camping, and kayaking) were positively correlated with indicators reflecting comfort in large-scale nature. The employment and demographic variables had few significant relationships; volunteering demonstrated weak positive relationships with several indicators, as did female gender. This research provides information about the indicators in terms of what they reflect and how they may be influenced by a person’s background.

Continue Reading

Sustainability education and radical possibilities: A book review of David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa’s Sustainability frontiers: Critical and transformative voices from the borderlands of sustainability education

By Jay Shuttleworth

Sustainability education examines the confluence between society, environment, and economy. Yet, an overemphasis on economy has historically trumped attention to the other sphere’s needs. Such an imbalance, editors David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa argue, calls for a radical reconceptualization of sustainability education. In their book, Sustainability Education Frontiers: Critical Transformative Voices from the Borderlands of Sustainability Education, they invite authors from ten different countries to discuss how sustainability education can be transformed to meet the needs of a diverse and interconnected world.

Continue Reading

Case Studies in Sustainable Social Work: MSW Students Explore Principles in Practice

By Kevin Jones, Lindsay Merritt, Ashley Brown, Shelby Davidson, Diana Nulliner, Jennine Smart, Lisa Walden and Nick Winges-Yanez

In 1999, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in the United States published a policy statement on the environment that acknowledged the social work profession’s apparent “lack of interest” in environmental issues, and called for a new urgency among social workers to address the challenges of pollution, environmental contamination, and resource depletion. Despite this call for urgency and the increasing certainty of widespread social and environmental crises due to climate change, the integration of ecological concepts into mainstream social work education and practice has been slow and sporadic. Only recently have some social workers begun to openly discuss a re-centering of social work within a sustainability paradigm, emphasizing the importance of interconnectedness among humans and the natural world, interdisciplinary alliances and partnerships, and holistic justice-focused practice. This paper explores the potential for a case study assignment in a Master of Social Work (MSW) program to help make explicit connections between sustainability concepts introduced in the classroom and the practical application of these concepts in a wide range of social work practice settings. Three sample case studies from students are presented, and advantages and challenges of this pedagogical approach are discussed.

Continue Reading

Book Review of Systems Thinking Made Simple: New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems

By Jeremy Solin

In this book review the author summarized the text, Systems thinking made simple: New hope for solving wicked problems by Derek and Laura Cabrera (2015). In the text, cognitive thought is described as a complex adaptive system and four simple rules of thinking are included as an approach to problem solving.

Continue Reading

A Sustainability Performance Assessment Tool: The SPA System

By Dorothy Paun, Shannon Bray, Tomoki Yamaguchi and Simiao You

Stakeholders have become increasingly vocal about companies’ sustainability impacts, and corporations have responded by issuing sustainability reports that discuss and gauge performance metrics for a variety of social and environmental dimensions. These corporate sustainability reports are public domain and contain a wealth of longitudinal data that could be used by stakeholders, including educators and students. However, these reports appear to be vastly underutilized due to insufficient knowledge of and skills for assessing corporate sustainability information. This article presents the SPA (Sustainability Performance Assessment) System (Paun 2015), an educational tool for mentoring students in corporate sustainability performance research. The Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) G4 framework forms the model underlying SPA. A student learning outcomes survey reported that 96% of the respondents said the SPA System reduced sustainability report complexity through enhancing their sustainability knowledge and/or analytical skills. More specifically, student feedback indicated an increased understanding of sustainability both as a concept and from a business perspective, and the improved ability to assess and compare corporate sustainability performance based on sustainability report information and data.

Continue Reading

“Don’t Step on the Ants!” Biomimetic Pedagogy for Sustainability in a Costa Rica Study Away Experience

By Cosette Marie Armstrong

Abstract: This case example outlines a study away experience in Costa Rica focused around the Life Principles of Biomimicry for the purpose of stimulating connection with and affection for nature. Janine Benyus (1997), author or Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, has long been cited for her declaration that affection is conservation’s linchpin. To address the tendency of some sustainability learning to propel learners into fear and despair, this learning experience was centered around positive solutions and emotional inspiration in nature. An outline of lesson plans, assignments, and activities all designed to foster affection for nature are outlined here for other educators who wish to foster the affective domain in sustainability learning.

Continue Reading

Education for a Sustainable Future: Benchmarks for Individual and Social Learning

By Jaimie Cloud

This document is a provisional draft that has emerged out of an initial “State of the Field” issue and database, published in JSE in 2014 and a follow-up conference in Winter of 2015.

Jaimie Cloud of the Cloud Institute has been the lead organizer and author of this document. See the opening pages for the large number of additional contributors.

A process for comment and revision will be announced during Spring/summer 2016.

Continue Reading

Applying AASHE STARS to Examine Geography’s “Sense of Place” in Sustainability Education

By Makayla J. Bonney and Leslie Duram

Abstract: Geography supports place-based inquiry for the learner, applying the old environmental adage of “think globally, act locally” to environmental problem solving. Many within and outside of the discipline of geography see it as a highly appropriate home for sustainability studies. Yet despite a history of human-environment education, place-based relevancy, and support from professional research or education organizations, studies show that geography does not always take a lead role in sustainability education. In the following, we revisit the contested histories of geography and sustainability education and show support for geography-led sustainability curriculum. The scope of this research is universities which have self-identified as leaders in campus sustainability, using the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) participation as an indicator. To best understand the current relationship of geography and sustainability studies in higher education, this study examines the role of geography in offering “Sustainability Focused” courses as reported by AASHE STARS institutions with geography programs. The results show that although geography departments are highly utilized when present at an institution, there is still much room for improvement both within geography departments and campus-wide. We then discuss the implication of these findings, both for the discipline of geography and for students of sustainability.

Continue Reading

Place and Resilience: Editors’ Introduction

By Chiara D'Amore, Clare Hintz, Cirien Saadeh and Jeremy Solin

Just as place scholarship reaches across and through many disciplines, so this issue ranges widely, including 14 scholarly features as well as media reviews, case studies, photo and poetic essays, and sustainability journeys. Disciplinary lenses include the arts, sociology, philosophy, natural resource management, sports science, and archaeology, among others.

Continue Reading

The City of Roses—Pasadena City College and the Chemistry Research Laboratories

By Jillian L. Blatti, Anthony F. Cuccinello, Betsy Juarez, William Liang, Jianyi Lu, Nikolai Massine, Jennifer Portillo, Elliot Pourmand, Anakany Ramirez, Vanessa Sanchez and Carina Sepulveda-Torres

As a background for these student responses, I would first like to describe the distinguished program they are a part of at Pasadena City College (PCC). The Early Career Undergraduate Research Experience (eCURe) is a program at PCC that provides students with an undergraduate research experience in the natural or physical sciences at the onset of their scientific careers. This unique experience inspires enthusiasm for scientific research by introducing students to research projects with broader impact in terms of sustainability, energy, the environment and emerging scientific technologies. In this particular eCURe research group led by Dr. Jillian L. Blatti, students have devised methods of synthesizing sustainable paints and testing their resultant properties; they have transposed their tested methods into lesson plans to engage local high schools in scientific outreach efforts, inspiring the next generation of scientists and science educators in sustainability education. As part of this outreach effort, students collaborated with Penn State University’s Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK) Network in their Remotely Accessible Instruments for Nanotechnology (RAIN) program to bring hands-on experience with advanced analytical equipment to high school students via the Internet, including a scanning electron microscope and atomic force microscope, which they used to analyze sustainable paints they crafted in the classroom. In these highly interdisciplinary and collaborative projects, PCC students are learning to integrate concepts from their science courses into a research-based setting, generating novel questions, designing experiments, analyzing the results, and communicating their science to a broad audience. This innovative community college research program has inspired our students at PCC to continue scientific research in sustainability that they have become passionate about as they transfer to four-year institutions. What follows is accounts of chemical research in sustainability in the chemistry research laboratories at Pasadena City College, the eCURe students’ ‘sense of place’, and how it impacted their views on sustainability research and education.

Continue Reading

A Word on Place : Altering the Meaning of Place with Typographic Installations

By Matthew Groshek

Abstract: With the challenge of exploring a particular rural site and responding with installations of type, students investigate the intersection of place, preconception, knowledge, experience and design. With a project named 4 (or 5) letters in a field, student teams participate with the changing conditions of a site and audience to alter the meaning of a place.

Continue Reading

Transforming Despair: Narratives on Global Warming and its Effects

By Ifunanya Ezimora

Ezimora et al JSE Nov 2015 Hope Issue PDF share: Bookmark on Delicious Digg this Recommend on Facebook Tip on Hyves Mixx it up Share via MySpace Share on Orkut Share on Reddit Share with Stumblers Tweet this Follow this posts comments

Continue Reading

Collaboratively Creating and Sustaining Hope and Agency

By Sherie McClam, Alan Cass, Christina Connors, Diane Frawley, Sadie Heald, Autumn McPartlin, Cheryl Orifici and Lisa Papernik

Abstract: This article reports on an autoethnography in which eight researchers interrogate their experience in a cohort-based education for sustainability advanced certificate program for evidence of practices that generated hope and agency, and worked against the hopelessness that can come with studying problem as big and seemingly insurmountable as sustainability. They found that learning about and tackling wicked problems as a community of practice undermined debilitating pessimism and generated productive hope and collective action.

Continue Reading

Learning Green: Perspectives from U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Educators

By William Sterrett and Scott Imig

Abstract: Opportunities abound for educators to rethink the way teaching and learning occurs for today’s students. Taking time to focus on learning outdoors, on making healthy choices, and on fostering a sustainable learning and living environment is transforming the way schools work across the nation. Through the lens of the three pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), this article described examples from a range of school sites and includes the voices of administrators, teachers, and staff in revisiting how we teach, learn, and lead. Helpful tips regarding school sustainability round out the article to provide “next steps” for the reader.

Continue Reading