Sustainability Program Learning Goals
After completing the year-long flagship living-learning program (including Approaches to Sustainability, Communicating Sustainability, and fall and spring Farm Practicum), students will be able to:
1. Describe how sustainability issues involve dynamic relationships among ecosystems and social systems that are embedded in ongoing histories of exploitation.
2. Discuss their own intersectional social positions within the ongoing histories of exploitation that have produced a planetary crisis in sustainability.
3. Evaluate and synthesize transdisciplinary knowledge of the systems involved in sustainability by intentionally seeking out multiple perspectives, including academic perspectives, community perspectives, and perspectives that have been marginalized.
4. Communicate about sustainability from different perspectives, to different audiences, and in different modes (e.g. speaking, writing, and art).
5. Articulate how participating in food production and community-building within a living-learning community is relevant to broader challenges of sustainability.
The sustainability program is a project focused, place based, immersive experiential program. All learning moments are an experience by the learner, whether that experience is reading a book, listening to a lecture, or hands on practice. At the sustainability program hands on engagement and contemplation of the lived experience helps students to reflect on abstract issues brought up in the classroom.
Project focused learning relates to students select to work on projects that are connected to food systems or broader areas of sustainability. The students engage with this material in hands on direct manner rather than merely reading about it. With this direct engagement they encounter problems that require them to do research and creatively find solutions. The students work on a project that is interesting to them, but through it they develop skills in problem solving, research, creativity, and hopefully begin to see systems. Because they get to choose the project and because it is tangible, the interest sparked on the subject allows for a thorough investigation and exploration.
Immersive learning means the student living on site is part of the educational experience. Living in the house, working on the farm, cooking and eating food, are all learning moments that we can and should contemplate. Our local consumption and lifestyle choices intersect with global issues of sustainability. We can use living in the house together as a way to contemplate and understand the global systems. Students develop skills in conflict resolution, collective decision making, and systems thinking. In addition students are mentored on basic house management including mindful energy consumption, waste streams, maintenance, food purchasing, household cleaning, responsibility. These are incredibly valuable skills in developing confident independent people, that are surprisingly and severely lacking among young adults.
Place based learning involves connecting with current area and see what it is that makes this location unique. Through place based learning students will connect with local ecological and sociocultural systems. If we can see these systems here, then we can begin to see these systems at work everywhere. Direct relationship with the ecosystem and local communities is vital for sustainability work to occur because so much of learning is abstract thought rather than concrete action. We need to get away from talking about sustainability and move towards engagement. Place based learning help facilitates this engagement with the current space and at this moment in time. No matter where you go, there you are, you might as well engage where you are.
Fall 2022 Classes:
EDUC 245 / ENVS 245 Approaches to Sustainability (1 credit)
The approach to sustainability in Fall 2022 is solving issues through environmental teaching and experiential education. Through philosophical exploration of this approach to educating people about a more sustainable community environment, students will read John Dewey and David Kolb on experiential and aesthetic learning, exercise different epistemologies through outdoor learning and indigenous ways of knowing as applied to food and landscape and debate the pros and cons of pedagogies like place-, problem-, project- or nature-based learning. Students will study and discuss these methods of education in conjunction with reading the experiences of other educator-environmentalists, and then engage in hands-on, learning by doing projects using the Sustainability Farm Site as our case study. Students will also apply their learning to the wider world of academia by writing grant proposals to supplement future experiential learning projects at the site.
ENVS-3057 Food for Thought (0.5 credit)
To grow our own food requires hard work, thoughtful observation, and creative problem solving. We will use gardening as a method to explore complex systems interaction including soil science, seed saving / plant breeding/ genetics, nutrient cycles, and agro-ecological processes as well as gain the satisfaction from eating that perfectly ripe tomato produced with our own labor. This class will produce a wide assortment of food for consumption at the sustainability program including vegetables, fruit, grain, nuts, dairy, and meat. Through hands on experience we can explore more abstract concepts of economic and ecological tradeoffs in agriculture, energy flows in system design, and adaptive problem solving. The course is heavily influenced by thoughts of organic food movement, agroecology, and permaculture. We will try to design an efficient small scale food production system by understanding the subtle environmental features of the landscape, the requirements and management of domesticated plants, and how they can fit together to produce abundant food with minimum energy. We will also explore how to preserve, cook, and of course eat this delicious food!
Elective: ENVS 3072 We can pickle that (1 credit)
Key components of the food system are food processing and preservation. To eat locally and seasonally, especially in the short growing season of the North Country, we depend on the art and science of home food preservation. In this course, students will explore the science, culture, and practice of food preservation. Students will learn through hands-on activities at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s commercial kitchen; how to can, ferment, dehydrate, root cellar, and freeze seasonally available produce from the St. Lawrence University Sustainability Farm. Additionally we will introduce and contemplate food systems and how food preservation interacts within the larger system. The lecture/discussion and lab time allows for the hands-on component of food preservation, breaks will be provided. The majority of the class will be the actual processing and preserving of food.
Spring 2023 Classes:
ANTH-3074 Communicating Sustainablity (1 Credit)
What can we learn about climate change from generational maple-tappers? What can old anglers tell us about the changing health of waterways? A lot! This class is a practical workshop in documenting and communicating local ecological knowledge (LEK) in northern New York through a focus on how participants in local food systems work to build environmental and cultural resilience. Students will interview local ecological knowledge bearers and grapple with the complexity of documenting situated knowledge for a wider audience. Course work will culminate in a collaborative project that curates and communicates that documentation in a publication highlighting local examples of resilient foodways. This course is part of the Sustainability Program. Students should register for ENVS 3035SUS: Farming Practicum concurrently. Fulfills SS distribution (2013 curriculum). This course counts as an ENVS dual-listed humanities elective.
ENVS 3035: Sustainabiltiy Practicum
We will use experiential learning to explore systems thinking and sustainability. We will look at systems at various scales of space and time, from you as an individual in the moment, to the site over the semester, to the campus over the years. The course will consist of class time, lab time, and house activities. There will be a heavy focus on food systems.