Syllabus

Syllabus: Geog 499: Sustainability Practicum
Spring Semester 2018
Tuesday & Thursday 10-11:50,  in Science Center 207
Additional time for small group meetings will be required.

Instructor: Dr. John Krygier
Office: Science Center 206
jbkrygier@owu.edu   |   http://krygier.owu.edu

Sustainability & Environment at OWU Blog: http://sustainability.owu.edu
Class working blog: http://blog.owu.edu/sustainability-workblog/

Updates: 1/28/2018

Course Description: As the concept of sustainability grows in importance the so does the need for tangible, applied efforts to realize sustainability as a daily practice for individuals and organizations (businesses, governments, universities, etc.). Geog 499: Sustainability Practicum makes sustainability work on the OWU campus and in Delaware, Ohio. The course consists of group efforts and collaborations (with campus organizations, regional organizations, OWU’s Buildings & Grounds, OWU’s food service, Residential Life and other individuals and groups to realize the goals of our collaboratively created (as part of this course) campus sustainability plan. Students in the course work with our campus Sustainability Task Force to evaluate and modify our campus sustainability plan as needed. Junior or Senior status is required, or instructor consent. The course requires motivation, and the ability to develop and work on and complete projects with others.

Two problems are immediately evident. First, what exactly is sustainability? The term “sustainability” has been applied so broadly that its meaning, some argue, is compromised. A path from a critique of environmentalism, through a critique and reimagining of sustainability, to a real world sustainability plan (from OWU):

  1. Reading 1: The Death of Environmentalism, M. Shellenberger & T. Nordhaus (2009)
  2. Reading 2: Sustainability, from Thwink.org
  3. Reading 3: OWU Sustainability Plan (2017)

Second, how do you put sustainability (however defined) into practice? It is easy to talk in platitudes: “the University should use more alternative energy,” “there should be more composting, recycling, or local organic foods on campus,” “why can’t we have a miniature golf course on campus?,” “OWU should sign the President’s Climate Commitment.” It is much harder to put such ideas into practice – but there are specialists – sustainability coordinators – who, given their training and institutional investments, make sustainability work.

Guess what? Here at OWU we have a strong, long-term interest in sustainability among faculty, staff and students. We also don’t have a sustainability coordinator, comprehensive knowledge of sustainability methods, nor much money to work with.

Guess also what? Good! Or, at least, one might say that the situation at OWU provides us with an interesting educational challenge and opportunity. Can a group of students, staff and faculty move beyond platitudes and take sustainability on campus forward in a systematic manner?

The philosophy of this course: Scrappy Sustainability: students, staff and faculty figure out how to make sustainability happen on campus with no full time staff and few funds: this stuff ain’t going to get done otherwise at least in the short term. It is good experience to try to make something real happen under challenging circumstances. The following recently published book chapter is about the conceptual outcomes of practical efforts of students, staff and faculty at OWU, working on sustainability: it’s an example of sustainability practice into sustainability theory, so to speak: Reading 4:

  1. Reading 4: “’Scrappy’ Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University,” by Emily Howald & John Krygier, from Sustainable Cities and Communities Design Handbook, edited by Woodrow W. Clark III (2017)

The Academic Justification for Scrappy Sustainability (and this course): Or, my logical defense of doing things differently in this course. Higher education has many assumptions about the form higher education should take:

  1. Passive learning (vs active learning)
  2. Segregation 1: Disciplines and Disciplinary Focus
  3. Theory into practice (vs. practice into theory)
  4. Segregation 2: Individual work (vs collaborative, community)
  5. Values

Course Learning Objectives: In No Particular Order of Importance and tied to OWU’s mission (to impart knowledge, develop values, and provide service)

5. From Passive to Active Learning: some things I expect from you in this class. These are all linked to broader issues in higher education.

Initiative: One of the more important things I learned in college (eventually) was to take initiative and develop my ability to actively engage in courses and collaborate with my peers and (eventually) those beyond my program and beyond the college. Students in this course will be expected to take initiative, and explain how their initiative has helped to move applied sustainability forward on campus.

Leadership: Leadership is more than being in charge. In this course, I expect students (individually or in small groups) to lead efforts to develop or expand current sustainability initiatives on campus. This requires that students understand the context of the initiative, clearly define a plan for their work, effectively collaborate and communicate their efforts, take responsibility in scheduling and completing required work, effectively work with people (staff, faculty, students) outside of the course, and, ultimately, complete the project by the end of the semester.

Trust: An important aspect of work life is trust: that you can be responsible and organized and depended upon to take on a task, manage it, and complete it in a timely manner without other’s needing to be guiding and watching your every move. Students in this course will be trusted to use the class time in an appropriate manner, for meetings, field work, etc. We will have some required group meetings, but the goal is that each student can be trusted to do what needs to be done to complete the work in the class.

Tenaciousness: The “philosophy” of this course is “scrappy sustainability,” which in essence means the capacity to be pertinacious, persistent, stubborn, or obstinate. In a context like ours at OWU (no sustainability coordinator, no sustainability experts, few funds for sustainability efforts) we need to be all of those things to get anything done on campus. Successful sustainability efforts (May Move Out, reusable food containers, recycling, etc.) have taken an inordinate amount of effort to start and keep going, with many obstacles and plenty of reasons for the weak-of-heart to give up and back away. Students in the course will be expected to be able to keep at their projects regardless of impediments and succeed with their goals.

Pragmatism: The core of this practicum is the idea of pragmatism. Being pragmatic is not just being practical, however. Pragmatism consists of the mind-set (and philosophy) that there is something important about what works (as opposed to what ideally should be). Knowledge is the outcome of a problem-solving process. You may strongly believe that we should “ban the bottle” (bottled water) on campus; however, this is a sort of specific ideology that, in practice, does not really work wherever it is imposed. Instead, the idea is to come up with a plan that works, and there is something important with that plan because it does work. For example, as we install more filtration stations on campus and promote their use, we see a drop in the purchasing of bottled water. Students in this course should expect to develop a pragmatic approach to sustainability projects on campus, and this requires critical thinking, the ability to move beyond ideological absolutes, and focus on what works.

  1. Reading 5: “Passive vs. Active Learning,” from The Sourcebook for Teaching Science by Norman Herr

6. Desegregation 1: From Disciplinary to Interdisciplinary

There are great benefits to the disciplinary structure of higher education. Focus and depth of knowledge and research have generated much knowledge about the world. But there are problems with a disciplinary focus alone: it can be blinkered and narrow to the extent that it, alone, is not able to address real world issues that are not so easily contained – like those having to do with the environment. That’s why we have an interdisciplinary E&S program. Biology is important. History is important. Geography is important. Geology is important. Sociology is important. P&G is important.

An important learning objective for Geog 499 is that you will work on projects and learn from a cross and interdisciplinary approach to those projects. You will come to understand how to learn from other students (and their disciplinary knowledge) and faculty and people off campus, all required if you are actually going to get something done.

  1. Reading 6: “Academics Anonymous: Break Down Barriers Between Disciplines,” The Guardian (2014)

7. From Theory into Practice to Practice into Theory

Sit in classes, sit in more classes, take a few labs, sit in more classes, read, memorize, take notes, take exams, then… put theory into practice in a senior research project or internship. It works and it is the primary model of higher education. But is not the only way to learn and understand. There is a case to be made for practice first, then theory later. What’s up with that? Support for this strategy is diverse:

  • My past research on practice as a means of driving and shaping theory/concepts/etc. In part, this developed from my undergraduate philosophy major where I found something loveable about pragmatism (James, Dewey, Peirce).
  • My experience working with students (at OWU), the majority of whom seriously engage when confronted with real world projects (compared to a regular lecture course). Student work on these projects drives a desire to learn and raises broader questions (students can address with knowledge from previous courses, or can inspire future courses choices or research projects).
  • My experience with students at OWU who have been engaged in real world environmental and sustainability efforts since high school or earlier. Not being able to engage in real projects (eg., sitting in lectures) is frustrating to students who have already done this kind of work before coming to OWU. This is increasingly common with both ES and other majors. Many of the students in the course (Geog 499/Envs 399) fit this mold. Other students don’t, and they learn a significant amount in collaboration with their more experienced peers.
  • Research which suggests that earlier meaningful engagement (hands on, real-world work) rather than lectures improves learning and the retention of students (in, say, the Sciences). Here is one recent example here
  1. Reading 7: “How to Keep Students in Science,” Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2017)

8. Desegregation 2: From Individual to Collaborative and Community Work

Your work reading, taking notes, studying, taking exams, writing papers, research projects, and so on. It’s largely a solo effort, which has great benefits and is relatively easy to assess. But much of the work in the world, in higher education and beyond, is collaborative and affects more than just you and your immediate community.

Learning & doing can be collaborative: this means faculty-student interaction, but, importantly, collaboration between students, collaboration with the community (professionals in the city government, regional organizations, and diverse community members). I stove to have an actual, positive impact on the community (then, the new rails-to-trails effort). Outcomes: positive impact and change in community, student understanding of how collaboration aids in effective change, student understanding of different people and groups involved in process, knowledge learned in this process.

“Service” should be relevant community learning, with imparted knowledge and understanding emerging from the challenges of practice, collaborative and otherwise. Community learning requires ethical considerations (all should benefit) wedded to positive community impact and corresponding learning outcomes. Importance of practice into theory, as well as theory into practice.

  1. Reading 8: “Mapping Campus-Community Collaborations: Integrating Partnerships, Service-Learning, Mapping and GIS” by M. Gilbert & J.B. Krygier, in D. Sinton & J. Lund, eds. Understanding Place: GIS and Mapping Across the Curriculum. Redlands CA: ESRI Press.

9. Imparting Values is not Indoctrination nor Imposition

Instead, understanding differing values and beliefs, then putting both into practice, then critically evaluating and allowing those beliefs and values to evolve. From the start, at OWU, I noticed that with our ES and Geography majors either lacked a critical sense of values, or had: strong ideals with no comprehension of how to elevate their ideals to action in any tenable manner. Teach and put idealism into practice, shaped by collaborative work where different values are embraced and understood. Results: the world is not simple; ideals not easy to put into practice: strategies, problem solving and a more substantive understanding of how values can be shaped by practice, and practice can shape and help values evolve and grow.

  1. Reading 9: “A False Dichotomy for Higher Education: Educating Citizens vs. Educating Technicians,” by Stephen C. Wilhite And Paula T. Silver. National Civic Review (2005)

10. Revisiting Spring of 2017: Broader Issues in Sustainability

At the end of this course, spring semester of 2017, I gave a talk during Green Week that drew from experiences in Geog 499 that spring and the previous semesters the course was taught. Some of the ideas in the presentation were drawn out and developed into reading 4: “’Scrappy’ Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University.” But there are more ideas there, some from Geography 360 readings:

While focused on climate change, Per Espen Stoknes What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action has many insights into the overall human reaction to sustainability, with practical ideas for how to move forward when political and personal obstacles to sustainability seem insurmountable.

Some of the worst moral and ethical problems of environmentalists are documented in Pascal Bruckner’s The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings. Bruckner describes a preachy, judgemental barrage of catastrophe and pessimism emanating from environmentalists that is, in the end, often inhumane if not outright anti-human. In its stead, he argues, we need to develop a humane, democratic, and generous ecology focused on solving earth’s environmental problems without demeaning or punishing humans.

For our final reading, review the presentation notes for the talk given spring of 2017, also called “Scrappy Sustainability.”

  1. Reading 10: “Scrappy Sustainability: Presentation” by John Krygier with input from students in Geog 360 and Geog 499, Spring 2017. [PDF updated with notes 1/28/2018]

Starting Point and Final Reflection Documents

There are 10 readings above that inform the practical aspects of the course, and the larger, conceptual issues.

Creation of a Starting Point Document

We will read, take notes and document reactions and thoughts, discuss and create a summary document synthesizing these readings and our reaction to them over the first few weeks of class, while we also start planning our practical work for the semester. This “starting point” documents where we stand at the beginning of the course. It is a sort of base-line document of our understanding.

Documentation

Each student will keep a log of ideas, thoughts, reactions, etc. related to the Starting Point Document throughout the semester. This log is vital in revisiting and reflecting on the Starting Point Document near the end of the semester, when a Final Reflection document will be drafted.

Final Reflection Document

Near the end of the semester we will revisit the Starting Point Document along with our log of notes and prepare a Final Reflection Document. Students will document how this literature helped, or did not help them think about what they did in the class. They will create a Final Reflection Document that will be read by students who take this course the next time it’s offered. Just like the Scrappy Sustainability documents above. That document will include reference to the read material, but also contain new knowledge, practical and conceptual. These outcomes will be presented by you, the students in Geog 499, at the spring student research symposium, and shaped into one or (possibly) a series of more conceptual papers, viable for presentation at conferences or publication.


Evaluation:

Students are expected to complete the following:

  1. Starting Point Document: by end of 3rd week of course
  2. Course project proposal: by end of 3rd week of course
  3. Project Reports: by the end of the semester: For each report (about 3 pages) compile the following:
    1. work and research completed
    2. key contacts
    3. organize the Geog 499 Spring 2017 shared folder for the individual project, make sure the Project Report will help future students take over this project; make sure all materials created (posters, artwork for stickers, etc.) are also in the shared folder
    4. your assessment of the project and what was completed this semester, and recommendations for the future
    5. Presentation of your efforts during Green Week, 2018 (Student Research Symposium, or Green Week related event)
  4. Final Reflection Document: Due 1 week before Student Research Symposium presentation
  5. Course & Personal Assessment: about 3 pages
    1. One page or so: your thoughts on the course, its structure, and the way we worked out the goals (projects). Did the wheels come off? Or not? Too much loosey goosey? Or did the flexible approach work? Do you think our effort will affect sustainability efforts on campus? Or are you more pessimistic? Document 3 things that worked well, and 3 that could use some work and/or ideas for what the course should focus on. Your suggestions for next year are very much appreciated.
    2. Two pages or so: Describe what you did (specifically) and your role in the class (compared to other students in the class). Review the rather broad and impossibly deep course learning objectives (above) and reflect on the role each played in the course, in general but with attention to your own personal efforts. Describe if you believe you achieved these learning goals in this course. If so, describe specifically how you put these goals into practice in the course. If not, describe why you did not meet the learning goals. Cast aspersions! Was it the format of the class, personal failings, etc.? How do you think this course could have better prepared you to reach un-reached learning objectives?
    3. Finally: Given your efforts, and in comparison with your pals in the class, let me know what you think you deserve for a letter grade. It does not have to be a C. That is the section letter.

 


Old Syllabus (with some still useful historical course information)

Geography 499: Sustainability Practicum
Spring Semester 2017
Update: Jan 20, 2017

Meeting: Monday 7-9 pm + Friday noon in Science Center 207

Dr. John Krygier
Office: Science Center 206
jbkrygier@owu.edu   |   http://krygier.owu.edu
Office hours: MWF 10-11, MWF Noon-1, or by appointment or chance
Sustainability & Environment at OWU Blog: http://sustainability.owu.edu
Class working blog: http://blog.owu.edu/sustainability-workblog/

As the concept of sustainability grows in importance the so does the need for tangible, applied efforts to realize sustainability as a daily practice for individuals and organizations (businesses, governments, universities, etc.).

Two problems are immediately evident. First, what exactly is sustainability? The term “sustainability” has been applied so broadly that its meaning, some argue, is compromised. Second, how do you put sustainability (however defined) into practice? It is easy to talk in platitudes: “the University should use more alternative energy,” “there should be more composting, recycling, or local organic foods on campus,” “why can’t we have a miniature golf course on campus?,” “OWU should sign the President’s Climate Commitment.” It is much harder to put such ideas into practice – but there are specialists – sustainability coordinators – who, given their training and institutional investments, make sustainability work.

Guess what? Here at OWU we have a strong, long-term interest in sustainability among faculty, staff and students. We also don’t have a sustainability coordinator, comprehensive knowledge of sustainability methods, nor much money to work with.

Guess also what? Good! Or, at least, one might say that the situation at OWU provides us with an interesting educational challenge and opportunity. Can a group of students, staff and faculty move beyond platitudes and take sustainability on campus forward in a systematic manner?

Guess also also what what? We actually got quite a bit done in this class the last two times it was taught:

The largest accomplishment is a draft Campus Sustainability Plan that was mostly developed by students with input from faculty, administrators, and staff. Emily Howald (who took this class last spring) helped refine the Plan in the Fall of 2016 so it has the tentative blessing of faculty and staff. The plan should be ready to move forward and, hopefully, be adopted by the university. That is one of our goals this semester.

Along with Karen Crosman in the OWU Development Office we looked into grants for sustainable projects on campus. Increasingly, grants from external foundations are required to make sustainability projects work. We will explore the potential of drafting a grant proposal for a selected campus sustainability project this semester.

Students presented at the OWU Student Research Symposium and will do the same this semester.

A new dishwasher and reusable food containers at Ham Wil. This effort is struggling as students have been reluctant to use the containers. We need to work on ways to make this program work. One issue is that many students see the containers as too eco-geeky. Investigate redesigning containers to have an OWU (rather than recycling) theme. Potentially change name (Bishop Box rather than Eco Container)

May Move Out: continue this now established effort. Plan and organize and make it happen again. Last spring’s effort put in place a viable program that does not cost the University any money. Our goal this semester is to get more students to donate and participate.

Efforts to reduce the sales of bottled water on campus with a focus on hydration stations. This effort is working, but we need to keep driving down bottled water sales with more hydration stations and promotion. May work on this in this class or task it to individuals (Geography 360 projects) or groups outside of this class.

Efforts to create a collaborative and sustainable (eg., it does not keep getting abandoned!) campus garden with the assistance of MTSO and Stratford and a collaboration on a Regional Food Charter. Potential funding from Honda Foundation (grant submitted, Fall 2016). We need to keep momentum going on these efforts this semester.

Continue efforts to expand Environmental Studies into an Environment & Sustainability Program. This effort is part of OWU’s 2000 (students) by 2020 plan. The effort has been slow going, but many programs are engaged in the process. This semester should see the establishment of an Environmental Science major, to be offered in tandem with the Environmental Studies major. Of primary interest in this course, this semester, is development of a proposal for an introductory Environment & Sustainability course.

Efforts offer at least two .25 credit activity courses focused on sustainability (tentative approval, 2nd mod, Spring 2017). Emily Howald made significant progress on this project last semester and I would like our class to finish the effort including establishing courses and getting instructors.

Proposal to add “green infrastructure” to at least one floor of an existing dorm, to evaluate such enhancements on a larger scale on campus (Emily Howald).

Potential for a Green Fee to fund a campus sustainability coordinator (potential resistance to such a fee) (Emily Howald).

Outreach to other regional colleges: The email below is from Liam McIlroy at Denison. We will work this semester to engage in this effort.

My name is Liam McIlroy a senior ENVS major at Denison and I am reaching out to propose a project that I am coordinating for this 2016/2017 academic year. In brief, my aim for this venture is to finally establish an external, student-managed organization that serves to unify the environmental student-activists that represent each member school of the Ohio Five Consortium. Upon creating this student-organization conglomerate under the official title of the Ohio Five Student Coalition for Climate Action (OFSCCA), student-activists from each school will set their sights for the OFSCCA 2017 Convention. This will be a single-day event consisting of keynote speakers, campus sustainability initiative presentations (presented by the students) and a facilitated discussion portion that will allow students from each school to share and formulate potentially tangible solutions to campus sustainability issues as well as tangible contributions to the broader climate movement. The sky is the Limit!

Outreach to the new Delaware Watershed Coordinator as well as Sustainable Delaware and the local Citizens Climate Lobby. We have had good luck working with the Watershed Coordinator in the past. OWU has never been able to work in any sustained way with local environmental and sustainability organizations. We can, in this class, at least ponder the potential benefits and strategies for outreach to these local groups.

Construction of Chimney Swift Towers (Dick Tuttle): we should have a donation to fund these towers in place this spring and can start construction. We may be involved to the extent of publicizing this effort at making the campus more environmentally friendly to wildlife.

Define a plan for publicizing our work and sustainability on campus, culminating in events around Earth Day 2016 (April 22)

Additional projects we may undertake: I may also farm these out to Geog 360 students:

  • Composting: a private company is interested in working with OWU on composting our food waste; in addition, we have been contributing some food scraps to Alex the Worm Guy.
  • Promote Earth Hour and light pollution awareness (project started in Geog 360, Fall 2016).
  • Meek Retention Pond Plantings: we have funds but have not been able to implement the plan.
  • Environmental Studies Spring Outing (at MTSO or Stratford)
  • ???

What we have going for us:

  • A campus community with interest in and commitment to sustainability (in theory).
  • A Sustainability Task Force (STF) on campus, with student, staff and faculty involvement.
  • Two successful semesters of this course laying the groundwork for additional efforts this semester
  • Groundwork on sustainability laid by our former Sustainability Coordinator, applied sustainability work in courses like Environmental Geography (Geog 360) over a half dozen years, work by Buildings and Grounds to incorporate sustainability in projects on campus, work by Chartwell’s to incorporate sustainability in the food service on campus, work by student groups, SLUs, and individuals on specific sustainability projects.

What is a practicum? The dictionary says “the part of a course consisting of practical work in a particular field.”


 My philosophy for this course: 

  • Scrappy Sustainability: students, staff and faculty figure out how to make sustainability happen on campus with no full time staff and few funds: this stuff ain’t going to get done otherwise at least in the short term. It is good experience to try to make something real happen under challenging circumstances.
  • Take Initiative: one of the more important things I learned in college (eventually) was to take initiative and develop my ability to actively engage in courses and collaborate with my peers. I expect you to do the same. I need you to do the same!
  • Read a Bit: to get us thinking, a new book (I’ve not read!): Peter Frase: Four Futures. It’s short and for paper $10 and Kindle $3 at Amazon (It just came out so I did not have the bookstore order it). I’ll add a few other short readings.
  • Think About Stuff: while our goals our practical, they are in a context of larger issues which are vital:
    • What does sustainability mean?
    • Why are we doing all this sustainability stuff?
    • Why is there push-back against sustainability?
    • Does sustainability undermine individual freedom and demean humans?
    • What is the psychology and politics of sustainabilty?
    • Can we gain something more than just practical outcomes in this kind of a course?

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