Integrating sustainability into a social science: what are the essentials?

By Rachel J. Eike, Cosette Marie Armstrong, Kim Y. Hiller Connell, Melody L.A. LeHew, Barbara G. Anderson and Gwendolyn Hustvedt

Social sciences in higher education, including fiber, textile and clothing (FTC) programs, have been slow to integrate sustainability, impeded by limited understanding about what to integrate. The objective of this study was to identify the dominant knowledge and skill areas included in educational programs that evidence high commitment to sustainability education. Qualitative analysis of secondary data revealed fifteen knowledge areas and eight skills in formal curriculum and seventeen topics commonly covered via informal education. This analysis identified natural and physical science knowledge most emphasized in sustainability learning but also revealed the importance of knowledge regarding economic and social issues. The most emphasized skill areas were problem solving, planning and management, and civic engagement. When comparing formal and informal programming there were many commonalities, yet the latter emphasized practical application to daily living. The study utilized the FTC discipline to illustrate how this framework of essentials may be useful as other social sciences reframe curriculum.

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