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Greening the Curriculum. Dr. Rhonda Richards Senior VP for Academic Affairs West Virginia University at Parkersburg. College students are flocking to sustainability degrees, careers. By Jillian Berman, USA TODAY

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greening the curriculum

Greening the Curriculum

Dr. Rhonda Richards

Senior VP for Academic Affairs

West Virginia University at Parkersburg

college students are flocking to sustainability degrees careers
College students are flocking to sustainability degrees, careers

By Jillian Berman, USA TODAY

Students interested in pursuing a job in sustainability now can choose from a variety of "green" degree programs.

With an increased interest in the environment and growth in the "green collar" job sector, colleges and universities are beginning to incorporate sustainability into their programs.

From MBAs in sustainable-business practices to programs that give students the technical training necessary to operate wind turbines, students have an increasing array of options to choose from.

topics for discussion
Topics for Discussion
  • Greening the College Curriculum
  • Expanding the Reach for Greening to P-12
  • Funding Greening Efforts
  • Greening as a Catalyst for Other Curriculum Efforts
approach 1
Approach #1

Workshops for faculty to update curriculum by retrofitting existing courses to include greening and sustainability concepts through artistic, cultural, historical, mathematical, philosophical, and scientific lenses to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject which is how the University of Maryland Chesapeake Project implements sustainability.

approach 2
Approach #2

Develop projects and themes and offer activities around the themes, such as University of New Hampshire’s four specific initiatives which are designed around four foundational systems of sustainability— biodiversity, climate, food, and culture—that are pervasive across the curriculum and throughout the college community.

approach 3
Approach #3

Offer a specific course on sustainability such as

Auburn University’s “Introduction to Sustainability”

that includes topics on:

  • History of Sustainability
  • The Next Industrial Revolution: Natural Capitalism
  • The Triple Bottom Line: Economics, Environment, & Equity
  • Human Capital
  • Climate Change
  • Scientific Process and Sustainability
  • Fundamental Ecological Concepts
  • Biodiversity
  • Complexity of Natural Systems
  • Resilience and Tipping Points
  • Limits of Human Engineered Systems
approach 4
Approach #4

Offer a specific cluster of courses across several disciplines that result in a certificate or concentration. For example, at Stockton College in New Jersey the new curriculum in Sustainability and Environmental Policy is a collaborative initiative of the political science and environmental science programs and is open to students in either of the two majors. The curriculum offers focused coursework for students planning careers in environmental policy, management, law, advocacy and education.

approach 5
Approach #5
  • Develop a broader, life long concept with hands-on sustainability that persists after graduation, such as Ohio University’s Kanawha Project that focuses on inculcating environmental literacy as a behavior.The project centers on understanding where you live in relation to the environment as one of the most important components of environmental literacy.
greening the curriculum1
Greening the Curriculum:

Here of examples where faculty have “greened” the

curriculum across academic disciplines at college and

universities in the forefront of campus and civic

sustainability matters.

  • Auburn University (The Fall Line Project)
  • Emory University (The Piedmont Project)
  • Stockton College (“New Jersey’s Green College”)
  • University of Maryland (The Chesapeake Project)
  • University of New Hampshire (Sustainable Learning Community)
  • Ohio University (The Kanawha Project)
green curriculum map

Here's a "green curriculum map" to illustrate what GreenHeart'sGreen Curriculum Model looks like. It shows the environmental / sustainability focus for each age/grade level, as well as the following essential integrating themes:

  • a foundation of ecological ethics (respect, compassion, sustainability)
  • the overarching focus of climate change / global warming and renewable energy
  • and a backdrop of environmental and ecosystem health

These general themes, when underlying the more specific age/grade learnings that build on each other, together contribute to an integrated and holistic education today that ensures a healthy future for our students and the world they will live in.


Grades 11-12

Grades 7-10

Grades 5-6

Preschool-Grade 3



Division of Energy




infusion nsf project ignite
Infusion (NSF Project IGNITE)

Greening the Curriculum could serve as a catalyst for other infusion efforts.

during the first six months
During the first six months:
  • Convene the Interdisciplinary Infusion Team;
  • Develop specific competencies that are covered in the Math 107/108 courses for general mathematics;
  • After identifying mathematics competencies that must be met, identify where in the welding curriculum these competencies can be taught;
  • Complete the general Math 107/108 post test for students to take after completing the welding curriculum with infused mathematics competencies.
during the months 6 through 12 the objective will be to improve
During the months 6 through 12 the objective will be to improve:
  • The achievement of students in the welding program for meeting the mathematics competencies in the general education core curriculum;
  • The retention of students in the welding program;
  • The collaboration between faculty in the welding and the mathematics programs.
during the months 12 18 the objectives will be to measure
During the months 12-18,theobjectives will be to measure:
  • The program completion rate for students in the first cohort of the IGNITE Project.
  • The success rate through the scores on the Math 107/108 posttest, the MAPP mathematics subtest, the WorkKeys Assessment, and the welding certification examination.
during months 18 through 24 the goal will be to reflect and refine
During months 18 through 24the goal will be to reflect and refine:
  • The program goals and targets as a result of the data from the first IGNITE Project cohort.
  • The competencies identified for the mathematics infusion as needed.
  • The future plan for the next level of general education infusion for technical courses and programs.