Incorporate Sustainability in your Core Teaching Content
Sustainability as Part of the Trunk of your Course
Although the benefits are numerous, there are common barriers to incorporating topics of sustainability into a course, including time and content overload. Terms are short, and courses are already overflowing with core content. One method to overcome this barrier and effectively incorporate topics of sustainability is to relate them to the core content, and not as course "add-on's" - part of the "trunk" of a course, not out on a twig. The Curriculum for the Bioregion project identifies this "big ideas" method as one of a few promising pedagogies for teaching sustainability.
How to Identify Target Opportunities
Incorporating sustainability into the core content of your curriculum begins with identifying:
- disciplinary core concepts that you already teach that might lend themselves to sustainability connections and contexts
- sustainability concepts that could be usefully integrated into your course
Example Core Disciplinary Concepts that Might Lend Themselves to Sustainability Connections
Participants from several of the the 2012-2013 InTeGrate workshops worked with others in their discipline to generate a list of key concepts that are essential for students to learn and also allow opportunities to bring sustainability into the curricula. What are the essential concepts that students in various disciplines should learn? How do concepts from different subject areas overlap? Where are the opportunities for teaching about sustainability across all disciplines?
Example Integrative Sustainability Concepts
There are a large spectrum of ways one can approach integrating sustainability into a course. Although this task may be daunting, it's been done before and you can benefit from example materials from your colleagues.
InTeGrate Developed Modules
- InTeGrate is actively developing a collection of modules and courses that explicitly build upon sustainability themes.
- Garbage Archeology combines the core concept of archeological field techniques with the unsustainable impacts of garbage.
- Malaria & Global Warming combines the core biology concept of host-microbe interactions with sustainability concepts of climate change.
- Using concept mapping to experientially introduce systems thinking combines systems thinking (core concept to biology, chemistry, geology) with the sustainability concept of resource limits (focuses on ethanol).
- Offshore wind or offshore oil provides students the opportunity to gain a perspective on the scales of energy production and environmental impact, and get experience defending a position using quantitative information.
- Grocery Store Survey of Aquaculture Products explores anthropogenic impacts on the ocean, marine life and coastal ecosystems.
- Fisheries Unit from Earth Labs contains several activities that tie together ecology, sustainability, fisheries management, and economics.
- Find more examples contributed by InTeGrate workshop participants in the Community Collections
- Explore course descriptions contributed by InTeGrate workshop participants in the Community Collections:
Ethanol & Sustainability Teaching: Integrating Business, Public Policy, and Science (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 3MB Jul25 12)
Rick Oches, Bentley University