Encouraging a student groundswell

Posted on November 13, 2007


We’re writing a section on education for sustainability for our student handbook (for February next year). Here is the draft for the learning angle (which we’re integrating with ‘sustainable campus’ material):

Otago Polytechnic is committed to an “every graduate” approach to sustainability. We have adopted sustainability as one our “core capabilities”. This means that we’re putting in place teaching and learning opportunities so that every graduate (regardless of programme or level) may think and act as a “sustainable practitioner”. In addition to being the “right thing to do”, these values and skills will put you in a strong position for your career.

As we transform our teaching over the next couple of years you’ll be seeing more and more examples of sustainability in your courses. The aim is to make this part of what you are learning, not something bolted on as an afterthought.
What “act as a sustainable practitioner” means will be different according to each discipline’s role in a sustainable future.

So, depending on your chosen career, you can expect assignments on equipment purchasing to include sections on environmental options; or lectures on seafood cuisine to include sustainability ratings of different fish stock; or… whatever is dictated by a philosophy of sustainability for your programme.

Otago Polytechnic statement on education for sustainability

The skills and values of Otago Polytechnic graduates contribute to every sector of society. Our curriculum, teaching and learning therefore is pervasive and influential with global impact. The Otago Polytechnic sustainability vision is that our graduates, our practitioners and our academics understand the concepts of social, environmental and economic sustainability in order for them to evaluate, question and discuss their role in the world and to enable them to make changes where and when appropriate. Our goal is that every graduate may think and act as a “sustainable practitioner”.

Some ideas to get you started in preparing yourself for your role as a sustainable practitioner:

– talk to your lecturers about what your discipline is doing to ensure a sustainable future. What are the challenges sustainability presents to your discipline? What are the opportunities?
– think about the actions you would like to take (now and in your working life) to ensure a sustainable future. Talk with your colleagues and lecturers about ways of making these happen
– be critical and creative in your assessment work. Challenge existing ideas to promote ideas of redesign, reduce, refuse, return; reuse; recycle.
– look for opportunities to enhance your learning through Education for Sustainability. Take part in the Sustainable Habitat Challenge, or the Imagine Cup, or work with a low decile primary school for a class project.
– think of ways of transferring your learning to include the bigger picture. Think about the impact of what you are learning across scales: in longer terms, in different places and on different communities.
– expect some programmes to change significantly, human services, for example is adopting “social justice” as a foundation principle for all learning.
– join a group (or better yet, form a group) to promote sustainability within your chosen career. GreenGeeks anyone?
– challenge your lecturers with different ideas. Ask for classes on cradle-to-cradle design, or discuss how ways of doing business are changing.
– participate in discussion: in class, out of class, OPSA, on the web. Here’s a question to get you started: is the iPod a must-have or “a deliberately unsustainable act intent on driving consumption and with the clear side effect of premature disposal”? (Blevis).