SSE is based in Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute – Arizona’s single largest research infrastructure investment in the biosciences. The project was launched in 2011 by Nobel Laureate Dr. Lee Hartwell. SSE’s model is based on the idea that in order to achieve a sustainable future, educators must systematically teach sustainability topics, problems, solutions, and divergent thinking in their classrooms at the elementary and middle school levels. The SSE team works toward this goal using a distributed service model, delivering services that encompass research, design, and implementation of various projects in the fields of sustainability science, continuing education, constructive style teaching methods, and technology tools for educators. Our first large scale project resulted in the concept of a new course, Sustainability Science for Teachers (SCN 400)
, which was developed to impact the individual, the community, and the world.
Colleges and universities are struggling to adequately prepare their students for the grand challenges of the 21st
century (Crow, 2008). At Arizona State University, these challenges guide the preparation of our students to become future leaders with the skills to address complex challenges and contribute to a more sustainable way of life. Our contribution to that mission is the Sustainability Science Education (SSE) Project, which is one of the first in the United States to clearly and systematically address sustainability in a teacher preparation program.
Crow, M. (2008). Overcoming Stone Age Logic. Issues in Science and Technology 24(2). Retrieved from https://issues.org/25-2/p_crow-2/
The field of preservice teacher education represents a critical mechanism to enact lasting and impactful change toward achieving the goals of sustainability. These early career professionals will play a critical role in preparing future generations in sustainability literacy and new ways of thinking (UNESCO, 2010). We aim to develop sustainability literacy among educators, and as part of this effort, Sustainability Science for Teachers
leverages the power of digital storytelling
to convey difficult concepts of sustainability in an engaging and approachable manner. This required course in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is designed to prepare pre-service teachers to learn about sustainability, and empowers them to see their roles in schools and society as catalysts for positive change.
The SSFT course has shown tremendous success in infusing sustainability into the training of the next generation of teachers to produce educators who are scientifically literate, globally-minded, and ready to engage their students about the problems and solutions of our time. We have already seen the early results of sustainability education move beyond ASU into K-8 classrooms by students who have taken SSFT: 60% of 105 surveyed alumni reported back to our research team that they have integrated sustainability topics and practices into their classrooms.
The Sustainability Science Education Project has been honored to receive the following awards and recognition:
- 2015 President’s Award for Sustainability, Arizona State University
- 2015 Vision Award, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University
- 2015 Innovation Award, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University – presented to Victor Nevárez, SSE Graphic Design Specialist
As our project has grown and evolved, we have discovered that there is not only a continued need for preservice teacher training in sustainability science education at Arizona State University, but also throughout the United States and world. Through national and international relationships, we are developing ways to bring our content to a wider audience. Most recently, we have developed a new course, Sustainability Science, Technology, and Society
, which is offered through ASU Online and thus able to have a greater reach, potentially throughout the world. As part of the ASU Starbucks partnership
, this course introduces the topic of sustainability science to a more general audience of ASU students, such as those who are interested in working outside the traditional classroom.
Additionally, SSE plans to develop a number of continuing education courses (CECs) that will be offered through ASU Online’s Continuing Education program. These CECs will focus on the inservice teacher audience, with ongoing support and collaboration within the sustainability science education realm.