Infusing Sustainability Across Disciplines to Build Student Engagement

Monday, 15 December 2014
Monica Z Bruckner1, Kristin O'Connell1, John Robert McDaris1, Karin B Kirk2, Krista Larsen1, Molly Kent1, Cathryn A Manduca1, Anne E Egger3, David Blockstein4, David W Mogk5 and John Taber6, (1)Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College, Northfield, MN, United States, (2)Freelance Educational Writer, Bozeman, MT, United States, (3)Central Washington University, Geological Sciences and Science Education, Ellensburg, WA, United States, (4)National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC, United States, (5)Montana State Univ, Bozeman, MT, United States, (6)IRIS, Washington, DC, United States
Establishing relevance and effective communication are key mechanisms for building student and community engagement in a topic and can be used to promote the importance of working across disciplines to solve problems. Sustainability, including the impacts of and responses to climate change, is an inherently interdisciplinary issue and can be infused across courses and curricula in a variety of ways. Key topics such as climate change, hazards, and food, water, and energy production and sustainability are relevant to a wide audience and can be used to build student engagement. Using real-world examples, service learning, and focusing on the local environment may further boost engagement by establishing relevance between sustainability issues and students' lives.

Communication plays a key role in the exchange of information across disciplines and allows for a more holistic approach to tackling the complex climate and sustainability issues our society faces. It has the power to bridge gaps, break down disciplinary silos, and build connections among diverse audiences with a wide range of expertise, including scientists, policy-makers, stakeholders, and the general public. It also aids in planning and preparation for, response to, and mitigation of issues related to sustainability, including the impacts of climate change, to lessen the detrimental effects of unavoidable events such as sea level rise and extreme weather events.

Several workshops from the InTeGrate and On the Cutting Edge projects brought together educators and practitioners from a range of disciplines including geoscience, engineering, social science, and more to encourage communication and collaboration across disciplines. They supported networking, community-building, and sharing of best practices for preparing our students for a sustainable future, both in and out of the workplace, and across disciplines. Interdisciplinary teams are also working together to author curricular materials that highlight societal issues. The InTeGrate Teaching Materials web pages highlight major outcomes from the workshops and feature community-contributed resources and pedagogic guidance designed to enhance teaching about sustainability across disciplines. Explore these materials at: