Build Interdisciplinary Networks
In order to teach Earth across the curriculum, faculty members must be networked across different units of an institution. Teaching about the Earth, especially when using a sustainability framework, is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor, and success of the program depends on bringing people with a diversity of expertise together. A common challenge of doing this is the disciplinary silo-ing that often occurs at colleges/universities. We have found that building strong networks across the college/university enhances the success and sustainability of these projects and that those networks can benefit from having non-faculty perspectives represented (administrators, center staff, facilities, etc.).
Unite Faculty and Staff with Common Interests
Successful networks require a common theme around which the members can unite and build a community of practice. A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wegner-Trayner & Wegner-Trayner, 2015). Within a community of practice, faculty and staff learn from one another, support one another, and identify opportunities for collaboration. Creating a successful community of practice requires an understanding of the topics that are salient to the members at the institution and are aligned with momentum at the institution. Many colleges and universities have environmental and/or sustainability institutes where common interests can be started and leveraged within the institution.
CSU Chico's Sustainability Pathway in General Education builds on university-wide interest in sustainability and institutional efforts to create topical pathways that satisfy general education requirements.
GAC connected content experts with non-geoscience faculty who were interested, but lacked content background, to teach climate science.
USD developed a faculty cohort from across the university to teach about earth science and sustainability using the Missouri River as a case study. The program built on the existing infrastructure of the Missouri River Institute (MRI) by creating a network among the faculty affiliated with MRI.
Wittenberg found that faculty connections led to more connections and collaborative opportunities that extended beyond the original project.
By pooling on-campus expertise from multiple disciplines, students have access to courses that will help them to communicate issues and solutions in Coastal Hazards, Risk Management, and Environmental Justice from economic, environmental, cultural, social, and security angles.
Help Faculty Teach Outside their Discipline
Although interdisciplinary training in graduate school is becoming increasingly common, most faculty have been trained within a specific discipline with limited training in other disciplines. Therefore, incorporating the Earth into non-geoscience courses can be a challenge because it requires teaching outside of the faculty's area of expertise, and therefore often outside of their comfort zone. Training and collaboration of some form is often required to help faculty to gain the requisite knowledge and feel comfortable teaching content outside of their primary area of expertise.
GAC partnered a geoscience faculty "developer" with a non-geoscience faculty "host." In this model the faculty developer worked with the faculty host to develop mini-modules related to climate change to be incorporated into the non-geoscience courses.
USD used a faculty workshop to provide faculty from across USD with background knowledge about place-based learning, sustainability, and multi-disciplinary perspectives on the Missouri River.
As a part of the Claflin team's work, faculty from 9 different disciplines (STEM and non-STEM) came together to help promote Earth Sciences and increase the number of students exposed to the field. The team developed 4 professional development workshops to help faculty teach content outside their discipline in non-geoscience courses.
The Shippensburg team devoted significant effort to enabling faculty inside and outside of the geoscience discipline to implement the InTeGrate modules in their courses.