The Pedagogical Pursuit of Environmental “Truth”: Mobilizing our Collective Expertise
11th Annual Conference of the Environmental Consortium
November 8, 2014 | Russell Sage College, Troy, NY
Jennifer Jacquet is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University. She is an environmental social scientist interested in large-scale cooperation dilemmas, with specific interests in overfishing and climate change. Her work has been published in journals such as Conservation Biology, Nature Climate Change, Biology Letters, and Biological Conservation. Jacquet formerly wrote the guilty planet blog at Scientific American, and contributes to Edge.org. Her book about the evolution, function, and future of the use of social disapproval, Is Shame Necessary?, is due out in early 2015.
|Breakout Session Descriptions|
Climate - It is a Dangerous Game We Are Playing
The science of climate change with numerous sensitivities system interactions, and feedbacks can be complex and challenging. The human and societal issues intersecting climate change can be overwhelming, depressing and paralyzing. To combat these challenges we have developed a suite of activities, serious games and interactives that engage students while teaching both the science and the societal impacts of a changing climate. Three pieces we will share during this session include: a marine food-web based card game that showcases interactions, dependencies and human impacts; a local assessment of sea level rise impacts; and a new app that explores the science and local impacts behind our rising sea level. Eco-Chains is a card game based on connections between the natural world and human influences. Focused on the connections in a local foodweb it deals with the delicate balance of the species and the impacts of human choices such as industrialization, overfishing, green energy choices. Future Coast Local is a field based activity where students use maps to move from the water's edge through the local community, tracking and discussing the impacts of a 1.5 ft., a 5 ft. and a 10 ft sea level rise and storm surge. They work in groups to complete a community impact assessment. Polar Explorer is an interactive map-based Sea Level Rise App that uses questions to navigate the user through a series of layers that addresses: What is the role of the atmosphere? What is the role of the Ocean? What else influences sea level change? Where has sea level been in the past? Where is sea level changing now? Who is vulnerable? Each of these questions takes the user to a series of touch interactive data visualizations displayed on maps and supported by a few sentence introduction, a short audio explanation, and supporting webpage.
Regulating Carbon Emissions to Mitigate Climate Change: An Interdisciplinary Module Interpreting New Carbon Pollution Standards
Climate change is a challenge that will not be resolved without interdisciplinary understanding to support political action. Despite a widespread consensus among scientists and economists, political leaders have been slow to respond to warnings from the academic community and enact policies that will decrease GHG emissions. The future-oriented and uncertain trajectory of climate change undermines political commitment to act. In addition, the structure and rules of national political institutions have led to legislative gridlock on climate policy at the federal level. Recently, the Obama administration proposed a Clean Power Rule which enables the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to utilize the existing Clean Air Act's 111(d) to establish carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. The EPA has delegated the task of crafting regulations to the states. This delegation is intended to give states more flexibility to choose the approach they will use to establish carbon pollution standards. Policy choices made at the state level will be shaped by each state's economy, culture, political leadership, and interpretation of the underlying scientific and economic analyses. The dynamics of the unfolding carbon regulatory process presents a unique and timely opportunity to teach students about climate change and interdisciplinary problem solving. The Bard Center for Environmental Policy faculty has developed an integrated and interdisciplinary three week teaching module in which students will learn how geoscience data and modeling can be combined with economics and political analysis to formulate state level policies responding to new carbon regulations. The module uses New York as a key case, and students will assess both climate risks and the costs and political issues regarding varying policy options for policy makers to reduce the state's carbon output. The faculty will discuss the module experience, from development to implementation, in this breakout session.
This paper explores the curricular role for consideration of personal leadership in environmental studies courses. Leadership education is typically divided into two arenas: personal leadership development, and organizational leadership. I argue that the former is more critical component of an undergraduate education, as it typically revolves around an understanding of personal leadership competencies, the ability to frame and deliver a narrative, and to engage with others in a vision. These are foundational abilities for affecting change, whether in the NGO or for-profit world, in policy or business. Indeed, these are also critical skills for career success. Given this overlap, leadership education is sometimes viewed as and therefore, not suitable for inclusion in a liberal arts curriculum. To this, there are two responses. The first is that leadership education was the original, primary purpose of the classical academy, and it remains embedded in the mission statements of many institutions. Done well, it is a powerful interdisciplinary exploration, with a particular focus on a typically under-served part of the curriculum: rhetoric and oral communication. The second is to recognize that in an era of rising student personal debt, an education divorced from professional concerns is increasingly untenable for many institutions. Shriberg and McDonald (2013) provide a survey of ESS-related programs that explicitly include leadership education, the majority of them started in the last few years. In terms of the conference theme, "the truth" is that the work that our graduates will do is of profound global and historical importance, and it is our obligation as educators as best as we can as change agents and leaders, both with a critical understanding of environmental issues, but also the ability to affect change.
Sustainability as Design: How not What
Presenter: E. Melanie DuPuis, Ph.D., Chair, Environmental Studies and Science, Pace University
If, as many argue, sustainability is a wicked problem: undefinable, emergent and transforming, and varied according to personal worldviews, how does one teach "sustainability"? This presentation will describe a course that uses the Stanford Design School Steps, incorporated into a series of interactive on-line labs. This course design trains students to implement effective projects that recognize and work within the wickedness of sustainability problems.
Teaching About the Natural World in the Field
Presenter: Richard S. Feldman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Marist College
Instilling a deep appreciation conservation of the natural world requires meaningful contact and familiarity with it.This session would present and discuss methods used by faculty who teach courses primarily in the field.The focus would be on the living world, but not to the exclusion of study of non-living features, e.g. geology. How do students gain skills in identifying various taxa? What kinds of sites are used? Who can collaborate with or support the courses with their expertise? What guides and tools are essential? How to assess student learning?
This fall sociologist and criminologist Alexandra Cox and artist and photographer Andrea Frank are co-teaching the honors course Place Matters. This hands-on and collaborative course explores the relationship between sociological inquiry and artistic strategies as a tool for integrating exploratory and field based learning with critical and visionary engagement in a chosen site. The course uses the overarching theme of place--using New Paltz and a 50 mile radius as a case study--and its relationship to social and environmental harm on the one hand and possibilities on the other as a starting point for investigations into local and regional institutions and issues. The site will be addressed by four teams from four perspectives: environment, punishment, labor and education.The assignments for the four teams combine artistic and photographic strategies with ethnographic exploration and include documentary photography, concept mapping, interviews, field notes, and critical writing. The class and assignments are structured in two parts: the first half of the semester will be devoted to the investigation of existing social institutions and structures, and the second half of the semester will be focused on researching seeds of and envisioning alternative and even utopian communities, environments, and systems. The course will culminate in a public exhibition on campus accompanied by a small public presentation in which students present their work. The employment of artistic strategies will facilitate the students' and the community's processes of recognition and reflexivity about pernicious but underrecognized environmental and social harms, and the visualization and/or experimental initiation of new systems or structures.
Through the course we aim to point to the deep systemic nature of environmental issues and their relationship to social issues.
Indigenous Values and Environmental Decisions
In the pursuit of Environmental truth there may be no more important conversation than that between Indigenous knowledge holders and the those who present their truth claims via conventional "western" science. What lies behind these truth claims are contrasting value claims between Indigenous values (gratitude, reciprocity, long-term outcomes, etc.) and the dominant culture's environmental values (efficiency, accuracy, measurable outcomes). At SUNY ESF we have created the Center of Native Peoples and the environment. The Center incorporates indigenous perspectives and knowledge for the benefit of native students and works to educate mainstream students in a cross-cultural context. This break-out session will be led by a Native Graduate Student and a non-Native professor and ally, both active in the Center. Together we are teaching, for the first tlme, an upper division undergraduate course, Indigenous Values and Environmental Decisions, as part of an Undergraduate Minor in Native Peoples and the Environment. In this course we compare and contrast environmental values and explore cases of decision-making processes that have attempted, with or more less success, the knowledge and values expressed by Indigenous participants in public decision making processes that affect them. In this break out session we will explore the cases we are using and the how our own pedagogical styles are influenced both by academic pedagogical norms and Indigenous modes of instruction and communication. We will also discuss the importance of promoting Indigenous values in the context of environmental education and the means and opportunities for doing so.
Bard College Food Initiative
Presenter: Paul Marienthal, Ph.D.,
Dean for Social Action and Director of the Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) program, Bard College
Following intensive discussions with students and administrators, Chartwells created a position that exists at no other institution in its orbit. The Food Advocate's primary job is developing partnerships with local farmers and food hubs. The students in turn created an extremely active oversight committee. We meet regularly to shift the food system radically and positively.
In this sessions we will discuss the farm, the central role of students, integrating the farm at the college, Chartwells positive response, and how the leadership development program of the college (the Trustee Leader Scholar program) figures into the bargain: everything having to do with Bard and food!
Watershed Monitoring and Management Programs as Ideal Training Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Steward-Scientists
The National Research Council has argued that in order to solve the world's complex water problems, "It is important to cultivate hydrologic scientists and engineers with intellectual breadth and disciplinary depth and graduates with enriched communication skills to enable them to easily work on interdisciplinary teams. During the education experience, periods of practical experience using the laboratory and field, exposure to new technologies, and service-minded activities () are all techniques to achieve this goal" (National Research Council ). Local watershed monitoring and management programs are the ideal setting to achieve these educational goals. Watersheds can serve as , promoting place-based, experiential, and inquiry-based learning through coursework and directed research, providing both interdisciplinary breadth as well as disciplinary breadth. Yet while this type of learning can provide a solid foundation to help students learn course content while becoming engaged, active members of their communities, our ultimate goal is to prepare students as ethical and capable environmental stewards. This requires a strong understanding of science and technology, but also the ability to communicate technical solutions to the general public.
Several Colleges and Universities throughout the Hudson Valley, such as Siena College, SUNY New Paltz and others, are doing just this, using their local watersheds to train capable steward-scientists. In this panel, we share examples of educational and research programs in which students are collecting valuable watershed data, helping to better understand hydrological processes, and engaging with their communities.
Presenter: Chris Bowser,
NYSDEC Hudson River Program & Cornell WRI
Water Quality Testing with Students: Citizen Science in School
Presenter: Ed Helbig,
Education Coordinator, Orange County Water Authority
The Solution: A Great Opportunity for Students!
GET WET's Benefits: Hands-On Learning
OCWA's GET WET program engages students and collects data. But is it science?
Is GET WET sufficiently valuable that it could be used in other Hudson Valley communities?