95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

PS 1-5 - Education for sustainable communities: An interdisciplinary approach to environmental literacy through student-centered research

Monday, August 2, 2010
Exhibit Hall A, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Brenda L. Young, Natural Sciences, Daemen College, Amherst, NY

The Consortium for North American Sustainability (CNAS), a partnership among six institutions from the US, Canada and Mexico, aims to provide students with a deep understanding of how local and North American issues intersect to shape sustainable communities.   We have created a student mobility program which incorporates shared experiential curricula and community-based research projects.  Students take a foundational online course on sustainability issues, develop appropriate research techniques and cultural awareness, and engage in online discussions on transnational issues prior to an exchange semester at a foreign partner institution.  During the exchange, students apply these research skills in projects with faculty and organizations addressing regional sustainability issues.   Through the multi-semester program, students compare and contrast factors affecting environmental sustainability across the three nations and learn effective regional approaches through case studies and hands-on experience.  


The curriculum helps students to understand the interrelationships between human choices and actions and environmental impact and socioeconomic issues in the context of their own community and those in Canada and Mexico.  Going beyond the theoretical linkages between environment, society and economics, this program allows students to put their knowledge to work on applied community problems while working across cultural boundaries.  For example, one Daemen College student worked with Fundacion Leon XIII, a non-profit in Mexico, to help certify their goods as fair trade to allow for more extensive marketing of handicrafts.   The additional funds received for these goods will be used for community projects such as reforestation and potable water infrastructure.   Graduates from this program should have enhanced skills at working on environmental issues at both local and global scales while respecting cultural issues that impact practices and decisions.