Connect Earth and Societal Issues
How an overarching focus supported making change happen
InTeGrate's focus is on linking teaching about the Earth to societal issues. This focus was an asset as we worked to make change happen. The specific changes we were seeking, more opportunities to learn about the Earth across the curriculum and more opportunities to link learning about the Earth in all contexts to the societal issues it serves, were selected as strategies that would meet the specific goals of our funder: increasing the diversity and size of the US STEM workforce. However, this focus was an asset as we worked to make change happen. People were interested in engaging with our project for many reasons, some of which were aligned with ours and others that were complementary.
A Motivational Focus
Living on the Earth in a just and sustainable way that balances our resource needs with our need to sustain the environment that supports our species and creates resilience in the face of environmental hazards is one of the grand challenges faced by modern society. Students, faculty, administrators, community members, and alumni are all interested in this specific set of challenges which allowed us to draw together the spectrum of support and buy-in needed by our projects to work together for change. Our focus on just solutions and resilience strengthened that interest by providing a forward-looking, action-oriented approach to the challenges facing our world.
Environmental justice, an issue of particular interest to traditionally underrepresented groups, provided a mechanism for Clafin (and potentially other MSIs) to strengthen interests in STEM learning at their institutions.
Many institutions have already committed to sustainability as a central principle, either in management of the campus infrastructure or as a central aspect of education at the institution and are seeking ways to strengthen their programming. The alignment of institutional goals with project goals has supported change.
Shippensburg's university-wide sustainability programs have been enhanced with implementation of InTeGrate curriculum in science and non-science courses.
The California State University system's Chancellors Office has initiated a program called Campus As a Living Lab (CALL) that extends to the 23 campuses within the system. Though not focused on Earth sciences, the goal of this program is to make the campuses themselves more sustainable entities, and the program has been leveraged to bring the concept of a sustainable environment into the curriculum, including through the Sustainability General Education Pathway.
The Wittenberg team's sustainability effort has built institutional capacity in sustainability and course collaboration with community partners.
A Unifying Theme Across Disciplines
Our work benefited from people of different backgrounds and interests working together. Environmental sustainability, resource issues, and resilience in the face of hazards are topics that require interdisciplinary collaboration. Our work on a specific interdisciplinary topic supported our ability to engage faculty from across the disciplines to work together and enabled our ability to spread learning about the Earth across the curriculum.
Sustainability and climate change are being used to integrate learning experiences across the curriculum at Wittenberg creating a context for faculty to work together on curriculum design.
At Gustavus, pairs of faculty (one with disciplinary knowledge on climate and sustainability and the other in a different discipline) worked together to craft InTeGrate-like materials to be infused into non-geoscience courses.
The GVSU team worked to create a new endorsement for pre-service teachers in Integrated Science which would provide them wide interdisciplinary knowledge with which to teach, leading to more interdisciplinary learning in K12 classrooms.
The USD team used the Missouri River as the organizing principle around which many faculty in many disciplines infused geoscience content into their courses.
A Lever to Increase Reach
Interest in justly sustaining our society extends well beyond higher education. Individuals, institutions, and groups are engaging this challenge in many ways across our nation and the world. This shared interest allowed us to build collaborations that expand our reach and leverage our work.
The Stanford team's work with interested two-year college faculty helps to strengthen the connections between the institutions as well as between students and the sustainability content.
Strengthening the geoscience component in sustainability or environmental studies programs built collaborations across institutions.
The Savannah team has had significant success in identifying partners who wanted to work with them on their service learning projects at various scales.