In this course, students are considered partners in their own learning. Different experiences and learning styles are valued and students contribute in ways that work best for them. A non-hierarchical, interactive, and flexible class environment make for high levels of student ownership and participation. Assignments and discussions often involve reflection - fostering a connection between the material and the students’ personal lives.
Community partners have both small and large roles in the design and delivery of the course. The course was originally initiated and developed by four environmental organizations together with Dr. Riemer. The idea was to make university learning relevant to real environmental issues and have students apply their knowledge by making a difference in the local community. Current and “real-world” examples are examined, and speakers are brought in to discuss their stories of social justice first hand.
Community partners have also acted as Instructors. In fall 2012, students were fortunate enough to work with Reduce the Juice Director, Sara Wicks. Reduce the Juice is a local youth-led organization that designs and implements community projects on climate change. Sara was a Co-Instructor on the course – teaching classes, mentoring students, and developing the action project framework.
The culminating learning activity of the course is the action project. These projects give students the opportunity to learn in a very applied way and also make a contribution in the real world. In fall 2012, the action project was Purple Gold and Green, an awareness campaign for composting and increasing the utilization of the green bins on campus. Students designed, implemented, and evaluated the campaign and presented the results to community partners.
The benefits of this course go well beyond just the transfer of knowledge. For students, it is a unique way to learn, develop new skills, and ignite a passion in social justice and civic engagement. Instructors and community partners find the work rewarding, fun, and meaningful. And the community benefits from a body of students who now have the know-how to move theory to action and become real leaders in the field.
This action project was an extremely fun approach to learning! Having the opportunity to be actively participating in a campaign is definitely not something you get out of writing papers or exams in any other class! Hopefully this is not the end of our campaign and we will continue to raise awareness and promote change. - Jaime, Student, PS332
So much awareness, in so little time! The event appears to be successful and the majority of the students/faculty on campus responded positively to the campaign. It was a pleasant surprise to have such a large turnout on the very first day of the action project, and you can continue to see how many people see the Facebook posts each day. Many people were surprised their coffee cups were compostable, and I feel like that is one of the take-home messages people will remember even after this campaign is over. This was the first campaign I have been a part of in university and it was so much fun! – Jess, Student, PS332
Visit the project website at http://purplegoldandgreen.wordpress.com/.