Connect to the World We Live In

Building connections between academic learning and examples, experiences, and issues from beyond the ivory tower can increase students interest in a topic and help them transfer this learning to real life situations in their professional and personal lives. A spectrum of approaches can be used from simply using real examples to contextualize concepts to the more complicated use of service learning projects to allow practicing skills and applying knowledge in the local community.

Why tie sustainability topics into real world examples?

Teaching Strategies and Example Classroom Activities

  • Empower students and faculty to Community and Political Engagement
    Community and political engagement supports better outcomes in our communities and provide students with the civic and disciplinary training needed for equitable problem solving. This includes design ideas for public engagement, locally- or policy- relevant courses, and civic programming.
  • Strengthen community connections with Service Learning
    Service learning gets students out into the community with opportunities to apply their knowledge to concrete problems of high interest to the people who live there. Get more ideas for service learning projects and access collections of example activities.
  • Bring relevance to classroom concepts and skills Using Local Examples and Data
    Local examples, field work and data can motivate students learning by applying concepts to the world outside their window. See other pedagogic guidance and ideas for incorporating local examples and data as well as teaching materials and resources.
  • Engage students with examples they can relate to by Using Real World Examples
    Real world examples give us case studies and data to help students understand how concepts apply to the world beyond the area they can experience directly. Explore strategies for using case studies and a rich set of examples.
  • Demonstrate and practice practical skills by Utilizing Field Work
    First-hand observation of the natural world creates a special kind of connection between students and the Earth. Take a look at some example activities that utilize field work, including those that can be done in an urban environment as well as those that incorporate service learning.
  • Teach Sustainability and Social Justice through Contrasting Narratives
    Explicitly comparing and contrasting narratives about the same topic, or how a story changes through time, can illuminate differences in the ways different communities or members of a community view an event or topic, or changes in the way an event or topic is viewed by a community as their perspective changes over time.

Unit 3: Simple Climate Models
Louisa Bradtmiller, Macalester College

Unit 5: The Sixth Extinction
Camille Holmgren, SUNY Buffalo State University

Unit 6: Carbon Emissions Game
Gautam Sethi, Bard College

Unit 1: Introduction to Modeling Dynamic Systems
Kirsten Menking, Vassar College; Louisa Bradtmiller, Macalester College; David Bice, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

Module 10: Food Systems
Steven Vanek, Pennsylvania State Univ-Penn St. Erie-Behrend Coll; Karl Zimmerer, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

Module 1: Introduction
Steven Vanek, Pennsylvania State Univ-Penn St. Erie-Behrend Coll; Karl Zimmerer, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

Module 9: Climate Change
Gigi Richard, Fort Lewis College

Unit 1: Evidence and Impacts of Climate Change
Sandra Penny, Russell Sage College; Eric Leibensperger, Ithaca College

Unit 1: Foundational Concepts
Lisa Doner, Plymouth State University; Lorraine Motola, Metropolitan College of New York; Patricia Stapleton, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Unit 3: Dynamic Integrated Climate Economy (DICE) Modeling
Sandra Penny, Russell Sage College; Gautam Sethi, Bard College; Robyn Smyth, Bard College

Module 8: Pests and Integrated Pest Management
Heather Karsten, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

Unit 2: Climate Forcings
Sandra Penny, Russell Sage College; Eric Leibensperger, Ithaca College

Unit 2: Water Footprints
Robert Turner, University of Washington-Bothell Campus

Unit 4: Case Study Group Work-Problem Identification
Rebecca Boger, Brooklyn College, CUNY; Russanne Low, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies; Amy Potter, Armstrong State University

Unit 1: Introduction to Global Food Security
Amy Potter, Armstrong State University

Unit 2.1: Hydrologic Impact of Land-Use Change
John Ritter, Wittenberg University; Meghann Jarchow, University of South Dakota; Ed Barbanell, University of Utah

Unit 5: Circulation in the atmosphere - a map and cross section based jigsaw
Phil Resor, Wesleyan University; Allison Dunn, Worcester State University; Bob Mackay, Clark College

Browse the complete set of real-world connections activities

Resource Collections

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