Using the Mississippi River Watershed Module in Science of Sustainability

Ryan Bouldin, Bentley University

Course Description

About the Course

Science of Sustainability

Level: An introductory sustainability course for any college student
Size: 29 students
Format: In-person

Course specific exercise »

This course examines the scientific basis for human development that provides people with a better life without sacrificing and/or depleting Earth's resources or causing environmental impacts that will undercut future generations. Examples of the Earth's resources to be studied include air, water, soil, forests, energy, minerals, fish, wildlife and agriculture. A service-learning project concerning conservation, recycling and reuse of everyday materials and products in the local area is a major component of the course.

They (the students) liked the town hall. In fact, they love the town hall.

Explore the Mississippi River Watershed Module »

Relationship of the Mississippi Watershed Module to Your Course

The course is one semester (~14 weeks)long. The common exercise module was positioned directly in the middle of the term. The common exercise was positioned just after a module on land-use change and before a module on fresh water and ocean acidification. We continued to utilize the stakeholder framework for the rest of the term to discuss how people, the planet, and the economy are impacted by operating within the planetary boundaries.

Integrating the Module into Your Course

I already had a water module in my course, so that made it very easy to do the (BASICS module) before or after the other module. In this case, I wanted the students to really take the stakeholder mapping exercise, that was like the most important component for me, and apply it to both the water module and to their final project. So it was relatively seamlessly integrated into the class. It was a big sales job to try to say, this is really important because we're going to use this in our final project later.

What Worked Well

The module works well for the stakeholder mapping exercise. Students really enjoy working in that interactive mechanism. They liked the town hall. In fact, they love the town hall. They liked the debate component of it. I used that format later to do a similar type of exercise with a different module. I was really happy with that component of it. Students were too.

Challenges and How They Were Addressed

The big challenge is the time. It takes two weeks to do it. Four class sessions is really what is required. I cut it to three this year, that's how I dealt with it. And mostly it was because of the sales job I did with the students saying that the stakeholder exercise is vitally important to what we're trying to get out of the course as a whole. I said, "Go home, do this as a homework assignment beforehand." So when they came in and did the exercise together they understood what a stakeholder map was, they had done the reading beforehand. So I was able to skip essentially a half a class worth of material by doing that. And that's somewhat cheating because of my class but it worked, saved me a day.

Student Response to the Module and Activities

They do get the stakeholder map component of it. Now there's some challenges in that a stakeholder map in business looks a little different than say the concept maps that we were using in the module. So other than that little bit of confusion the students really took a lot from it.