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Teaching Notes for the Lifestyle Project

Introduce the project in a way that provides motivation

A crate of locally-grown peaches at a farmer's market.
A crate of locally-grown peaches at a farmer's market. USDA Photo by Bill Tarpenning.
The lifestyle project is challenging in an unexpected way for many students. Because the project asks them to make changes to their personal lives, students must be in a frame of mind to want to experiment and try something completely new!

The ideal groundwork for the lifestyle project accomplishes the following goals:

Some scenarios:

Any of these exercises can be used to get students thinking about how their own actions directly impact the environment, and introduce some of the fundamentals of conservation.

Offer an alternate assignment

A bus fueled by liquid natural gas in Dallas, TX
A bus in Dallas, TX runs on liquid natural gas. Photo by Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

The lifestyle project is not for everyone. Students should not be forced into changing their personal habits, but rather they should be given the option and encouraged to do so. When you offer the lifestyle project, it is important to also offer a traditional assignment on a related topic so that students who are not interested or incapable of doing the project have a more comfortable alternative.

Here is an example of alternative assignment:

Have the student play the role of a consultant to a community, corporation, campus or local government. The consultant's job is to find ways to reduce energy use, water use, garbage output, or food inefficiencies (i.e. the same categories as the project) on a scale appropriate for a small community, campus or corporation. The topic should be limited to only a few of the project categories, rather than all five, so that there is room for some depth in their research and writing. Acting as a consultant, the student should develop a conservation and waste reduction strategy, a concrete outline, and supporting evidence of where a similar plan has worked before. Students are encouraged to add their own ideas, but the paper should be based on research and strategies that have worked in actual communities.

Maintain motivation throughout the project

This project is most successful with frequent input from the instructor all the way through the three weeks. Some of the problems that come up include: In each of these cases, spending a little time in class can help alleviate these problems.

In addition to spending a few minutes in class going over these ideas, be sure to reinforce them in your responses to student journals.

Do the project yourself!

Purchasing fresh produce at the grocery store
USDA photo by Ken Hammond
There is no better way to understand this project and to bond with your class than to do the lifestyle project yourself. Even if you already live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, you will still learn a thing or two by following the more rigid parameters required by the project. More importantly, this will give you a solid foundation from which to read and reply to the students' journals, and to provide the class with motivation. Students will not hold a grudge against you and your demands on their lifestyles if you are taking the very same steps as they are. The phrase "teach by example" applies perfectly in this case.

You can share your experiences in your lifestyle project by talking to the class, by writing a bit about your experiences in student journals, or by posting your own journal on the course website.

Using the Lifestyle Project in a distance learning setting

The lifestyle project is well-suited for use in a distance learning class for a variety of reasons.

Adaptations for distance learning

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