Initial Publication Date: February 3, 2017

Develop Interdisciplinary Curricula

This page was developed as a synthesis of lessons learned by participants in InTeGrate program models and is part of an extended set of InTeGrate resources on managing curricular reform.

Managing Curriculum Reform

Why Focus on Sustainability?
Personal and collective actions are needed to ensure the sustainable use of our natural resources and environmental systems—land, air, and water—in an ethical and responsible manner. On this page, InTeGrate lays out the rationale for why undergraduate education should include a focus on Sustainability and Earth-centered societal issues.

Teach Earth Across the Curriculum
Several of the 16 InTeGrate program models sought to spread the teaching of Earth-related material widely through their undergraduate curricula. This suite of pages synthesizes the lessons they learned about how to do that.

Embed Sustainability in your Program
Issues such as balancing energy alternatives with environmental toxification, climate change, and provisioning a growing human population while maintaining natural resources have fundamental geoscience components. This set of pages makes the case that more geoscience programs should include learning about Sustainability as well as different ways that can be accomplished.


Search all InTeGrate Curriculum Reform Resources

Processes, steps, and strategies to develop or revise courses

A number of strategies must be attended to in order to effectively implement course-level change that forms the foundation for curriculum development. Many projects landed on a common overall process, in which they first identified key leaders to frame a common understanding and remove barriers between academic units, followed by a process of modifying or adding courses (within and outside the geosciences). Course-level changes, in turn, led to larger-scale (certificate, minor, or program) change.

Reach Out to Other Academic Units

Engage representatives of other departments, colleges, or institutions to identify and remove barriers presented by policy, procedure, accreditation, or pedagogic differences. This work, which produces a common understanding of the educational frameworks involved, enables leaders to effectively engage in interdisciplinary work. This work focuses on understanding the organizational structures involved in order to develop a successful program. Another important component is developing a network of interested faculty, which is described on Build Interdisciplinary Networks.

Gustavus Adolphus College
At GAC, pairs of faculty members from different departments (e.g., Geology and Economics) met to discuss pedagogy, course constraints, and student expectations in addition to discussing the content that would be covered.
Claflin University
The project PIs selected faculty from nine different disciplines (Criminal Justice, Psychology, Business, Biology (different branches), Public Health, Political Science, Chemistry/Geology, and Geography) and looked for people who also had administrative positions on top of their teaching loads to insure a smooth implementation and expansion beyond course infusion.

Infuse Learning about the Earth into Non-Geoscience Courses

Create Earth-literate college graduates in disciplines beyond the geosciences by including sustainability themes in general education courses, campus-wide requirements, or courses required for majors outside the geosciences.

University of Northern Colorado
In a general-education scientific writing course, the common syllabus includes sustainability as a major theme. Students learn writing and research skills within this sustainability framework and additionally learn to connect sustainability to their intended major.
Wittenberg University
A module on sustainability is added to the Wittenberg First Year Seminar. Consequently, all incoming students to Wittenberg are exposed to active learning and the topic of sustainability through a 2 week project in their first semester.
Gustavus Adolphus College
The Gustavus team developed a suite of modules aligned with the InTeGrate development rubric and implemented them in courses across the curriculum in courses ranging from Religion to Neuroscience.
Savannah State University
Savannah faculty in business and political science joined the program team and modified lower and upper division courses in their disciplines with InTeGrate materials.

Bring Sustainability into the Geoscience Curriculum

Enrich the geoscience curriculum with courses that address sustainability and societal impacts to prepare geoscientists for sustainability-related careers or further study.Embed Sustainability in your Program »

Introductory Courses

University of Northern Colorado
The Northern Colorado team developed a 200-level general education science lab course, Environmental Earth Sciences, to serve both as an entry into the Environmental Geoscience degree program and to serve students who will go on to other disciplines.
Savannah State University
Faculty at Savannah State modified introductory level courses to include coherent sustainability themes.

Upper-division Courses

Savannah State University
The Marine Sediments course at Savannah State was initially developed as part of an NSF grant to increase engagement of HBCU students in geological oceanography and enhance their exposure to the International Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) and research relevant to IODP. Several sustainability-related themes emerged in this course in the most recent offerings.

Create Certificates, Minors, or Campus-wide Initiatives

Capitalize on intersections that might lead to a certificate or interdisciplinary minor in sustainability or a geoscience field. This could involve developing all new courses or tying existing courses together with a common thread of sustainability and only developing new ones if there are gaps in the sequence that need to be filled. This creates new pathways for students into learning about the Earth.

Penn State University
The PSU team developed 5 new courses that constitute a Certificate Program and an Earth Sustainability Minor and are offered both on-campus and online.
California State University - Chico
One of the main goals of the CSU Chico team was to provide cohesive curriculum across the Sustainability Pathway an option in the General Education requirements that would improve student learning and confidence around sustainability issues. Students can earn a minor in Sustainability by completing the Sustainability Pathway.
Savannah State University
The Savannah State team has developed new courses that will serve as the backbone for a new certificate or minor in coastal risk, management, and environmental justice.

Infuse Sustainability into Teacher Preparation Programs

Enhance Earth-literacy in teacher preparation programs through a sustainability focus. Specific targets might include Elementary Education, where teachers have broad science exposure, and STEM-field teaching certifications, where teachers have a more robust exposure to science but might not otherwise be exposed to sustainability themes.

See more: Build Connections to Strengthen K-12 Teaching »