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Infuse Sustainability into Your Course

Making a Place for Sustainability in your Course

Bringing sustainability into your teaching offers a wide range of benefits to student learning, such as establishing relevance, bridging course content to current topics in the news, and connecting the course to other disciplines. The topic of a course greatly influences how easy or hard it is to incorporate sustainability as well as the pedagogies one might use to teach the class. There are certain courses that naturally deal with sustainability concepts, so tying the threads together into a coherent theme is more easily done. Hazards, environmental geology, and ecology courses, for example, already involve issues that overlap with sustainability and span traditional disciplines. There are also courses that provide more of a challenge to incorporating sustainability concepts and topics. Integrating sustainability into courses such as oceanography, economics, history, or languages (and many others) may take additional planning and can involve reshaping the approach to the course. Regardless, giving students the opportunity to encounter sustainability concepts across the whole curriculum is a powerful way of giving them the tools they will need to chart a course to a more sustainable future.

What do we mean
by sustainability? ยป

Below are specific examples of things you might do in your courses.

Strategies for Incorporating Sustainability

Pick a theme in sustainability that works with your content

Sustainability as a field is vast in terms of the content that could come under its umbrella. But there's nothing to say that you have to try and cover it all. Pick a theme that runs through sustainability that relates well with the content of the course and and align your teaching activities to speak to that theme, such as is described on the Incorporate Sustainability in your Core Teaching Content page.

Food, water, and energy are examples of themes that could fit a number of contexts at various educational levels. Participants at several InTeGrate workshops have identified a number of core disciplinary concepts that make good prospects for connecting your content to sustainability.

Examples described in workshop participant essays:

Build interdisciplinary perspectives into the course

Sustainability is an inherently interdisciplinary concept covering the interplay of various kinds of systems. Getting students to understand the extent of that interdisciplinarity requires that they be exposed to the various perspectives involved and building interdisciplinary teaching into the course from the outset is a strong strategy. Try incorporating interdisciplinary teaching strategies such as inviting guest speakers or team teaching a course with one or more colleagues in other departments. Or think about listing a course in more than one discipline to bring together students from different perspectives. These approaches also help build a culture of collaboration that is needed as our students tackle the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability challenges now and into the future.

Examples described in workshop participant essays:

Make sustainability relevant to students' lives

Whether they are taking a course in history, economics, or oceanography, students need to feel like sustainability issues are relevant to their own lives before they will engage with the material. For example, bringing the human dimension into the course could be connecting students to the necessity of mining to produce the ubiquitous technology that they depend on or including an opportunity for your students to get out into the community to see impacts of issues they are studying in a real world context.

Examples described in workshop participant essays:

Useful Pedagogical Approaches

Resource Collections

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