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Core Pedagogies in SUSTAINABILITY. 1. Promote understanding without doom and gloom 2. Focus on solutions 3. Practice being a positive agent of change: Move from analysis to action. Promote Understanding.

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core pedagogies in sustainability

Core Pedagogies in SUSTAINABILITY

1. Promote understanding without doom and gloom

2. Focus on solutions

3. Practice being a positive agent of change:

Move from analysis to action

promote understanding
Promote Understanding
  • Political Science: In comparative politics, use a sustainability theme when discussing economic history, development history, cultural identity and relationship to the land, and current political issues/problems as they pertain to sustainable development (natural resources, laws, use of international or domestic courts, development pattern).
  • Math: Use energy consumption data and curve fitting to obtain functions to analyze. 
  • Chemistry: When teaching balancing equations, use as an example the combustion of fossil fuels to relate to how pollutants are released into the atmosphere.
promote understanding1
Promote Understanding
  • Education, psychology or business: To explain cognitive dissonance, use a sustainability related real life example about resistance to behavior change when exposed to new information.
  • Psychology: Provide examples of how to promote eco-friendly behaviors while teaching concepts of persuasion and operant conditioning.
  • Business: When describing the concept of a sustainable business model, use examples of businesses that have been successful embracing a triple bottom line sustainable business model
promote understanding2
Promote Understanding
  • Biology: Present facts about human suffering regarding nutrition and the food chain and water resources globally and the need for sustainability as well as examples of improvements and data showing some progress from the Millennium Development Goals and Oxfam.
  • Ecology: In discussing biodiversity, include a case study about a successful biosphere reserve that protects an ecosystem while also incorporating sustainable use by local communities (e.g. ecotourism, shade-grown coffee).
focus on solutions
Focus on Solutions
  • Political science, sociology, business: When explaining social capital, describe how native Bolivians organized in order to regain public ownership of water supplies.
  • Earth sciences, biology, history: Tie the discussion of historical events to environmental drivers. Refer to examples of civilization disruptions/collapse/causes of conflict when societies damaged their ecosystems (e.g., Irish potato famine as a result of monoculture production: focusing on a single crop meant that when that crop failed, famine ensued). Include discussion prompts of how we (individuals, regions, countries) can use this knowledge of history to prevent future conflicts.
  • Biology, Environmental Science, Ecology: Examine how sustaining environmental life-support systems benefits human health. 
focus on solutions1
Focus on Solutions
  • History: When discussing the colonial settlement in the North America, examine the relationship between the settlers and their environment. When studying the Great Depression, include a substantial discussion of the Dust Bowl and the policies developed to prevent future disasters on this scale.
  • Career information: Compare and contrast unsustainable versus "new" sustainability thinking in professions related to each academic area. Connect to U.S. Department of Labor’s work on the need for sustainability thinking in existing professions.
  • Chemistry: Have students study the infamous unintended consequences of some past chemical discoveries, discuss what might have avoided those consequences (e.g., a holistic rather than a reductionist approach), and then learn the principles of green chemistry and apply them in retrospect to the past discoveries. Would the results have been different?
be an agent of change
Be an Agent of Change
  • Math: Go beyond having students calculate the negative ecological impacts of buying water bottles. Have them share their calculations with appropriate groups on campus that might organize a campus-wide campaign for reusable water bottles and water refilling stations.
  • Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science: Have students identify on-campus health-related “issues.” Guide them through a process of vision creation, systemic thinking (using the triple bottom line sustainability principles), use of data and the generation of an authentic initiative that can be used on campus to make real change.
  • Education: Ask pre- and in-service teachers in science education to develop action plans that promote education for a sustainable future (ESF) in their schools.
be an agent of change1
Be An Agent of Change
  • Psychology, Sociology: Help students learn about scientific methodologies of surveys and qualitative interviewing by having them conduct a survey of possible sustainability related projects within non-profits that need interns for implementation and then share the results with the service learning office on campus. The various stages of the project (designing the survey, testing reliability, conducting the survey, writing the results) could be carried out over several terms.
  • Psychology, Communications: When teaching the core concepts of communication and persuasion, utilize examples of how to persuade people to be more environmentally and socially responsible (e.g., promote less energy waste, more recycling, being more politically active, consumption choices to reduce sweatshops and slave labor). Have students present to a group of their choice outside the classroom and receive suggestions on improving their effectiveness. 
be an agent of change2
Be an Agent of Change
  • Any discipline: Have a civic engagement component where students can contribute to creating a more sustainable future using the core concepts from the course. Students might choose reducing energy waste in residential halls, making school gardens, food co-operatives, park clean-ups, green fairs, and human rights groups.
  • Natural sciences: Have students take their Ecological Footprints at and reflect upon how what they are learning in their course can help them reduce their damage to our shared ecosystems.  Ask them to create a personal plan to reduce their footprint and to take two steps from the plan during the semester; list three behaviors that they can practice in their own home or work environment to be more sustainable for one month; for another month…
  • Any discipline: Have students participate in a Positive Futures Fair where they explore sustainability related volunteer and career opportunities. Student affairs offices or campus Sustainability Coordinators can sponsor such a fair on the college campus.