Rebecca Boger: Using Food Security in Introduction to Urban Sustainability at CUNY Brooklyn College
About this CourseAn introductory course for urban sustainability majors
Syllabus for Introduction to Urban Sustainability (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 63kB Aug16 16)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
My course is an introduction to urban sustainability that integrates materials from environmental science, sociology and economics. As a relatively new course, I have been learning about what works or doesn't work each time I teach it. From the onset, the course was designed around two-week units pertaining to sustainability topics (e.g., water, transportation, housing). A few years ago, I took a Team Based Learning (TBL) workshop. While the course structure doesn't totally fit within the TBL design, I do apply many of the elements, such as having students work in teams throughout the semester, giving quizzes at the beginning of each unit so that students do the reading and come prepared to learn more deeply about a subject, and more application activities and fewer lectures. One of the course units is food and so the food security module was a perfect fit for the course, both in content and structure.
The diversity of the students reflects the international city in which they live. The topic of food is perfect for student engagement since they can relate food to their everyday experience. Many of my students have or are working in community gardens and many are poor and live in food desert neighborhoods. At the very beginning of the module, we shared our thoughts about what it means to be food insecure. I shared with them about a time in my life when my family was food insecure. I could sense that they were listening and saw that I was a person who may share experiences that they have had or are living through now. That helped set a comfortable and deep learning environment.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsFor the first time running the module I followed closely how the module was written. Based on the first run, I will make some minor modifications for the next time I offer the module. In particular, I will give most of the readings before the beginning of the module instead of before each unit. Most of my students work and/or have large family responsibilities in addition to attending college. Many students need time in advance to prepare for classes, and are not able to always read the night before class the following day.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
The Introduction to Urban Sustainability course is taught over 14 weeks. The course is designed around thematic modules of transportation, green space/brownfields, water, housing, and food, each lasting 2-3 weeks. The food module was the last topic offered. Throughout the course, examples of how social and natural systems are impacted by and impact each other are discussed.