Course Overview

In our effort to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability we have developed two core courses: Sustainability Leadership 1 and Sustainability Leadership 2.  Students in the program are required to take 1.5 credits each semester, including one core course and a .5 credit practicum course.  The core courses are taught by faculty from humanities, social and natural sciences.  In addition to the required core courses, students have the option of enrolling in elective courses offered on the farm.  Students will be given first priority for seats in these elective courses and will be joined by on-campus students who fill out the remaining seats.  Program students who do not opt to register for these elective courses will work with their on-campus advisor to fill out their course schedule by selecting on-campus courses required for their major or distribution requirements. Finally, students who desire are able to develop their own 1 or .5 credit independent studies as part of the program.

Core Courses for the 2017-2018 Program:

Sustainability Leadership 1: Solving Sustainability (Fall 2018) 

Too often discussion of sustainability problems can seem overwhelming and make people feel it’s all hopeless. This course seeks to encourage students to get involved in their local and global community. The Sustainability Leadership curriculum focuses on five core competencies: systems thinking, anticipatory, normative, interpersonal and strategic.  While these competencies overlap, this course emphasizes systems thinking (interaction between components in a sustainability issue), anticipatory thinking (what will happen if no intervention occurs), and strategic thinking (what does a successful intervention and its outcome look like). To do this, students will understand case studies that model the relevant competencies and complete problem based learning that allows them to apply these same competencies.  Finally, students will be asked to evaluate their intervention. Example case studies could include a successful global intervention in ozone depletion.  The case study would model competencies: identifying the problem of ozone depletion, anticipating possible outcomes (what might cause the hole gets bigger or smaller) and strategic action (policy initiatives that addressed the issue). Examples of problems based learning activities could include for example how SLU can meet its climate commitment to be carbon neutral by 2040.The focus of the Problem Based Learning will be decided upon collectively by students and faculty each semester drawing on faculty expertise and student interest.  The course will be taught by multiple faculty using on interdisciplinary perspectives. 

Farm Practicum (Fall 2018)

Students will explore sustainable food production in all its facets through hands on work at the Sustainability Farm.  The students will learn culinary arts that take food from the field all the way to their dinner plates.  In addition student will learn about the different preservation methods including root cellaring, dehydrating, canning, and fermenting so this food can be consumed deep into winter.  Farm work will involve vegetables, fruit, perennials, mushrooms, some grains, and animals.  As a class we will explore full diet production, or to put it plainly what is it that we actually eat and how can we produce it.  Students will engage in sustainable farm topics such as reduce tillage, crop rotation, nutrient management, rotational grazing, cover cropping, mushroom production, and perennial-based agriculture.  Challenges and barriers to adoption of these techniques will also be addressed including appropriate scale and economic issues.  The class will meet once a week to discuss theories behind sustainable agriculture, but majority of time will be hands on learning through life on an organic farm.

Sustainability Leadership 2: Sustainable Communication: Education, Advocacy, and Activism (Spring 2019)

Moving forward in sustainability efforts requires effective communication skills; therefore this course develops your skills as environmental leaders by teaching you theories and practices of communicating environmental education and sustainable advocacy.  This course will particularly focus on how you communicate to different audiences and with different purposes.  In the course assignments you will provide an environmental education session to a local youth group, write articles for digital audiences, and target a college-audience with persuasive communication. 

Farm Practicum: Planning an Edible Forest Garden (Spring 2019)

The goal of this course is to assess the landscape of the Sustainability Site and design an edible forest garden to be planted on location.  An edible forest garden attempts to use ecological principles to mimic a forest ecosystem to produce food based on perennial plants.  Case studies of existing forest gardens will be analyzed to see what works and what can be improved upon.  As a class we will map out the Sustainability Site, analyze and assess factors that will influence perennial plantings around the property.  The majority of the class will consist of creating a detailed design proposals for an edible forest garden to be planted at the Sustainability Site.

Elective Courses for the 2018-2019 Program

Fall 2018 Courses

Papermaking: A Sustainable Practice

Few of us think about this thing we use everyday: paper. This class will focus deeply on learning how to identify, evaluate, and harvest, plants appropriate to process into pulp and make paper. You'll be able to have an understanding of and ability to evaluate plants for paper forming using both Eastern and Western traditions. We will make paper from indigenous local and cultivated plants and plant fibers from other sources, including, perhaps an old T shirt or your worn out cotton work clothes. This course if taught by Prof. Velma Bolyard.

Emily Dickinson's Breath: Ecological Sustainability Through the Meditative Qualities of Poetic Breath

Ecological sustainability rests on the responsibility of the individual and a clear self-awareness of that responsibility, while also necessitating the awareness of global interconnectedness. Meditation has been a means to pull oneself into the present moment, the “Now,” for centuries and most often uses the breath as a means to do that: the breath being representative of All because it’s by nature always changing, while also always offering itself to everyone impartially. Few recognize the power of the breath in poetic works, and Emily Dickinson’s work, though we have no concrete evidence that she practiced meditation, serves in itself as meditation because of not only the use of breath within the poem but also the references to the breath throughout her body of work. We know other writers of her time were focused on the power the natural world offers us, the power of outside air that we can explore philologically in Thoreau, in Emerson, in Whitman, but Dickinson’s work makes palpable that the power is not only the air, but the conscious use of breath to guide us and sustain us in the present moment, allowing us to transcend suffering and pain. Without this presence of mind, or “mindfulness” that we hear so often stated in today’s global discussions of sustainability, we would have no awareness of our place in the world, of our interconnectedness, of the truth of how things are now, and, therefore, we’d be unable to move through and transcend hardship or take mindful action to effect change in our world. This necessitates a consistent mindful practice of meditation, which this course argues can go beyond merely sitting, to writing through breath and experiencing the breath of those who have gone before us as we share in their works of creation. This course will be taught by Prof. Karyn Crispo Jones

Spring 2019 Courses

Landscape Ecology 

Taught by Dr. Sara Ashpole, the course provides theoretical principles of landscape ecology linked with planning and the design of landscapes and the restoration of degraded environments. Lecture explores the ecological processes inherent to landscape ecology, which will be complemented by characterizing and developing spatial assessment skills through the use of Geographic Information Systems in lab and the field. A focus on characterizing landscape patterns and dynamics for detecting or simulating landscape change (i.e. fragmentation) and consequences to species and metapopulations in a landscape mosaic will be the basis for group projects. Field trips and guest lectures will enhance the course material.

U.S. Environmental History

Taught by Dr. Anne Csete, this course is a survey of major themes in U.S. environmental history between ca. 1500 to the end of the 20th century. These themes include how people have thought about the natural environment, how we have changed and been changed by the environment over the last few centuries, and the development of an environmental movement and government policies about resource management and conservation.  Along with a narrative textbook, we will use readings from primary documents and secondary scholarly books to look in more depth at a number of topics. These include Native American peoples’ relationship to the land, the ecology of Colonial New England, and comparative forms of agriculture from colonial to recent times, with a particular focus on farming in the Midwest. Students will write reading responses, give oral presentations, write a short review essay which will be presented to the class, and write a take-home final exam essay exploring the course themes and readings.