Incorporate Sustainability in your Core Teaching Content

Concepts on this page were derived from faculty discussions and presentations at multiple InTeGrate workshops.

Bringing sustainability into your teaching offers a wide range of benefits to student learning, such as establishing relevance, bridging course content to current topics in the news, and making the course connected to other disciplines (which can also be done explicitly in an interdisciplinary setting).

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



Interdisciplinary themes

Ethanol & Sustainability Teaching: Integrating Business, Public Policy, and Science
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Ethanol & Sustainability Teaching: Integrating Business, Public Policy, and Science (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 3MB Jul25 12)

Rick Oches, Bentley University