Sustainability and the Campus

Suzanne Savanick Hansen, Environmental Studies
Macalester College

Summary


Course URL: []
Course Type: Intro Level:Earth System Science
Course Size:
less than 15

Course Format:
Small-group seminar

Institution Type:
default

Course Context:

This is an interdisciplinary 2 credit class run through the Environmental Studies Department and taught by the Sustainability Manager. The is an elective course and has no prerequisites. It attracts students who are particularly interested in the topic or students who need a few credits for graduation.

Course Content:

The class begins with an introduction to sustainability and sustainability issues specifically at Macalester College. Next the class explores specific sustainability topics such as: climate change, food, health, biodiversity, waste, water, and energy. In groups, students work on a campus sustainability project. Students conduct a sustainability audit for a campus department or work on a campus sustainability project, analyze its most important issues, recommend actions, and present findings. Field trips include a sustainability walking tour of campus, campus steam plant, behind-the-scenes dining hall tour. Sometimes a field trip to the regional water treatment facility or e waste recycling center is included.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to:
1) Demonstrate an understanding of the social, environmental, and economic systems within sustainability
2) Connect local action and global impacts of sustainability issues
3) Develop an understanding of the connection between campus energy and resource flows and the college culture
4) Develop a "sense of place" for Macalester
5) Audit a department for sustainability and develop recommendations for improvements, or propose a sustainability project on campus.
6) Gain group project skills and develop critical, creative, and practical thinking skills

Course Features:

1) Course goal: Demonstrate an understanding of the social, environmental, and economic systems in sustainability . This is accomplished through class lectures and discussion. It is demonstrated through projects, reflection, and, event review and final essay, "What sustainability means to me?
2) Course goal: Connect local action and global impacts of sustainability issues. This is accomplished through class lectures and discussion and demonstrated through projects, discussion and reflection.
3) Course goal: Develop an understanding of the connection between campus energy and resource flows and college culture. This is accomplished through class discussion and demonstrated through reflection.
4) Course goal: Develop a "sense of place" for Macalester. This is accomplished through the Linneaus list project, field trips and discussion and demonstrated through the Linneaus list reflection on a native plant on campus.
5) - Audit a department for sustainability and develop recommendations for improvements, or propose a sustainability project on campus. This includes gaining skills needed for "consulting" (client management, analyzing problems, solutions and developing recommendations). This is accomplished through the class project and demonstrated through the presentation and report.
6) Course goal: Gain group project skills and develop critical, creative, and practical thinking skills. This is accomplished through the class project and demonstrated through the project and demonstrated through the presentation and report.

Course Philosophy:

This is a semester-long course taught by the Macalester College Sustainability Manager for the Environmental Studies Department. This entire course uses the campus as a "living laboratory" (https://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/campusbased/index.html). The course was loosely modeled on James Farrell's Campus Ecology course at St. Olaf College. James Farrell's students contributed to the book, The Nature of College: How a new understanding of campus life can change the world, which is one of the textbooks for the class. The course also is an adaptation of the Campus Environmental Assessment course (https://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/campusbased/examples/enviroassess.html), previously taught by Dr. Savanick Hansen

Assessment:

I used the rubrics in the "Campus Living Laboratory" module https://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/campusbased/howto.html. I used the following rubrics to grade the assignments. One of the most challenging aspects is grading the group projects. I lay out the expectations clearly in the group project contract and brainstrom poor group projects the students have experienced and ways to avoid these issue in their project. I also have the students assess their own and their group members contributions. Usually these assessments are accurate, with only rare exceptions.

Syllabus:

Sustainability and the Campus Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 107kB Jul13 18)

Teaching Materials:

Class Project Planning Document (Acrobat (PDF) 64kB Jul13 18)


Course spreadsheet (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 17kB Jul13 18)

Group Project Contract Form (Acrobat (PDF) 123kB Jul13 18)

References and Notes:

Many of the course projects are archived on the Macalester College Sustainability Living Laboratory website

James Farrell, The Nature of College: How a new understanding of campus life can change the world, Milkweed Editions, 2010.

Margaret Robertson, Sustainability Principles and Practices, Routledge, 2014.

University of Minnesota Extension Service, Big Woods, Big Rivers Linneaus List.

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