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Sustainability Activities

These activities have been submitted by faculty from a range of disciplines. The activities use a wide array of pedagogic approaches to address various aspects of sustainability, science and societal issues.


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Action to Enhance Sustainability
Bill Stigliani, University of Northern Iowa
This assignment is a 10-hour, out-of-class project where each student designs and carries out an action plan to enhance sustainability. Students select from a large suite of alternative actions, most of which can be quantified for reductions in CO2 and energy consumption, as well as in dollar savings.

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
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How Can Models Be Used To Study Climate Change?
Ben Fackler-Adams, Skagit Valley College
Students utilize ice core data to develop a simple climate model, test it and then analyze, through reading IPCC materials, what other variables might need to be included in a model that more accurately predicts climate response to forcings. They are then asked to reflect on the use of models in scientific inquiry and on climate skeptics view of climate models.

A mock legislative debate to enhance and integrate student understanding of climate change science, policy, economics and ethics
Mari Lee, Colorado College
This activity utilizes publicly available, proposed national legislation to provide a platform for student inquiry into the intersection of climate science, environmental economics and sustainable public policy.

Service-Learning to explore Sustainability
Tracy Lai, Seattle Community College-Central Campus
Service-Learning is a means of exploring sustainability and connecting experiential learning with academic study of the topic.

Analysis of trends in global oil reserves, production, and consumption
Scott Cummings, Kenyon College
An exercise to analyze trends in global oil reserves, production, and consumption.

Habitat for Humanity Build Day
Lori Troxel, Vanderbilt University
Teaching sustainability through Habitat for Humanity.

Exploring sustainability through water cycle connections
Tim Lutz, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
During this module students use multiple experiences (reading, video, the outdoors, a survey of their water footprints, writing, and lots of discussion) to examine how life today, in comparison to pre-industrial times, makes our connections to water virtually invisible. Students use the class's water footprint results to find out how agricultural and industrial water uses link us to people distant in both place and time. They weigh the consequences of these invisible connections in creating the lost sense of dependence and responsibility that typifies unsustainability. Students study the variability of water footprints within our class to help identify more sustainable personal choices. They consider the activity of a local watershed association to educate and involve people in improving the quality of local streams as a model of how community action can accomplish what individuals cannot.

Offshore wind or offshore oil?
Noah Snyder, Boston College
An introductory environmental science project tasking students with comparing offshore oil and wind power development.

Introduction to Global Climate Change Through Classroom Discussion
Becca Edwards, Southwestern University
A classroom discussion about global climate change designed for a general undergraduate classroom. Discussion is facilitated by a 10-15 minute brainstorming session or gallery walk.

Article Review
Lisa Harrington, Kansas State University
Students are given a choice of sources from which to choose an article relevant to the course (Sustainability Science) for review, including connection to other course content. Integration of article content with other course materials is an important component.

Exploring Easter Island Economics with Excel
Morris Coats, Nicholls State University

Using concept mapping to experientially introduce systems thinking
Meghann Jarchow, University of South Dakota
This activity uses concept mapping as a tool for students to experience the complexity that is inherent in many sustainability-related issues.

The Ecological Footprint Dilemma
Bruno Borsari, Winona State University
How big is your ecological footprint? This case will assist students in quantifying this construct and allow them to reflect on life styles and alternative approaches that can help them reduce their ecological impacts.

Sustainability project
Pablo Toral, Beloit College
The students develop, implement and assess a project that will make our campus more sustainable.

Back of the Envelope Calculations: Renewable Energy
Laura Rademacher, University of the Pacific
This is an example of a back of the envelope calculation of the payback period for a renewable energy installation.

Game Assignment for Environmental Economics
Nelson Altamirano, National University
Game Assigment for Environmental Economics and Sustainability

Pollution or fishing industry research project
Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco
Pick a particular type of pollution or fishing/commercial industry in the ocean. Describe its story – how humans are impacting global oceanic systems and how the ocean is responding.

Seminar on Sustainability in Europe: What are the Limits of Possibility?
Mary Ann Cunningham, Vassar College
This field trip presents a model of an experiential exploration of sustainability systems and the limits of possible transfer of ideas from Europe to the US. In addition to experiential learning, our aim was to have in-depth, ongoing conversations in which to examine our assumptions and observations.

'Reporting' on the World Water Forum to understand media coverage and gaps
Abigail Schade, Davidson College
'Reporting' in-class on the tri-ennial World Water Forum.

Earth Resources in the Classroom
Maureen Muldoon, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
This is a brief, in-class exercise designed to get introductory students in a large-lecture class to appreciate that many of the things in their life are made from earth resources. I have the students break into small groups and then list five items in the classroom that contain earth resources and five things that do not contain earth resources.

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