Sustainable Communities

Martha Henderson,
The Evergreen State College


Sustainable Communities address the role of social capital in maintaining and promoting local healthy communities. This course focused on the role of sustainable farming and energy production in reaching at-risk youth in rural communities undergoing economic and social change.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This summer course with no pre-requisites will provide undergraduate and graduate instruction in community development. I expect 75% enrollment at the undergrad level and 25% at the graduate level. Graduate students are asked to write a research paper from a theoretical perspective in addition to attending all classes and field experiences.

Course Content:

Sustainable Communities covers topics in environmental studies including geography, sustainable agriculture, alternative energy production, at-risk youth education, public administration, and community development. Students will spend approximately 50% of their time in lecture and seminar, and 50% of their time in field work and hands-on activities at the case study site. Students will learn to identify areas of social capital development through youth programs that include sustainable agriculture and energy systems.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to identify indicators of risk for youth and local communities, how to seek community support and participation from local community leaders, and how to engage at-risk youth in practices that keep them in school and promote educational goals for job success. These skills will be promoted through student learning about development theory, community sustainability, and experiential learning.

Course Features:

This course is an intensive, 8 hour a day, 2 day a week program. One day of each week will be spent on the Evergreen campus in lecture and seminar. The second day will be spent in Centralia talking with local community leaders and/or engaged in hands-on activities at Growing Places Farm and Energy Park. Final assignments will focus on site development as part of a larger focus on sustainable communities.

Course Philosophy:

Energy in included in this course because energy is a primary topic in local sustainability. The case study, Growing Places Farm and Energy Park provides the opportunity to see energy production and at-risk youth mentoring as a form of local energy sustainability.


Students will be assessed on class participation, weekly progress reports on their own learning, and production of knowledge about sustainable communities. Written material, seminar work, and participation in experiential learning will be used to assess student work. A written evaluation will be made of each student at the end of the class.


Sustainable Communities (Microsoft Word 33kB May8 09)

References and Notes:

These books are assigned for the 8 week class:
Krile, James. Community Leadership Handbook: Framing Ideas, Building Relationships and Mobilizing Resources.
Flora, Cornelia Butler. Rural Communities: Legacy and Change
Sumner, Jennifer. Sustainability and Civil Commons: Rural Communities and the Age of Globalization.
Evans, Robert L. Fueling Our Future: An Introduction to Sustainable Energy.
Winne, Mark. Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty.
GRuB reading materials on at-risk youth and sustainability