The 2021 Sustainability Curriculum Colloquium™

A joint activity of AASHE and the Sustainability Curriculum Consortium (SCC)

June 16-17-18, 2021

(All times Eastern)

This online event to be held over a 3-day period in June brings together faculty teaching sustainability in higher education and others interested in advancing the field.

This event will be structured to facilitate a deeper dive into key issues than the typical conference panel format. All sessions will include interactive components.

The event will serve as the SCC’s annual faculty conference for 2021 and is intended as a complement to AASHE’s Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education to occur online later this year.

Participants are able to register for the full event or for each day separately.

Wednesday, June 16


Presentations by case contributors to a forthcoming SCC-AASHE publication: “Practical Approaches to Teaching Sustainability: Key Competencies”

12:00 Noon

Opening remarks

Session Chair: Rebecca Potter, Hanley Sustainability Institute, University of Dayton


Group 1

Cases and examples:

Julia Novy (Stanford University)

Transformational Change: Connect-Adapt-Innovate (CAN) orientations

Susan Caplow (University of Montevallo)

Teaching Systems Thinking

Jeannette Pope (Depauw University)

Laying the groundwork for sustainability competencies: lessons from a first-year seminar

Marty Pool (Fort Lewis College)(via video)

Training Students to be Change-makers: the 7 Ways to Make Change Framework (video)

Facilitated dialogue on these competencies

2:00 PM

Group 2

Cases and examples:

Erin Wahl (New Mexico State University)

Integrating Concepts of Sustainability into Information Literacy Training

Caroly Shumway & Stephen Eversole (Center for Behavior and Climate)

Teaching Behavior Change Skills for Climate Careers

Jordan King (Arizona State University)

A Design-based Approach to Activating Key Competencies through Multifaceted Formative Assessment

Annette Bos & David Robertson (Monash University)(via video)

Why is transformative change so difficult? Student Ideation, Innovation, and Creativity Skill Development (video)

Facilitated dialogue on these competencies

3:30 PM

Group 3

Cases and examples:

Michelle Larkins (Pacific University)

Tackling Wicked Problems Through Transparent Teaching

Tai Munro (MacEwan University)(invited)

Specifications Grading to Support Sustainability Competencies

Brittany Davis and Adrienne Krone (Allegheny College)(invited)

“Stop Telling People What to Do”: Teaching Sustainability Through Cultural Learning

Cosette Joyner Martinez (Oklahoma State University)(via video)

Spiritual Pedagogy in Sustainable Design Education (video)

Facilitated dialogue on these competencies

5:00 PM

Closing remarks and next steps

Thursday, June 17


Workshops hosted by AASHE’s Centers for Sustainability Across the Curriculum and other leaders in sustainability in higher education

11:30 AM -2:00 PM


Workshop A

Bringing a complex system perspective to bear on a pervasive action-framed climate education curriculum

Ashwani Vasishth (Ramapo College of New Jersey)

Many of us in the sustainability/climate action arena have converged on the realization that, if we are to field this goal of checking climate impacts within the next 9 to 10 years, we have only about four to six years to having society shift its education system fundamentally toward a “proper action” mode of decision making.

This means, in real terms, that we have little choice but to shift the pre-K to 16 education system into a very different frame of thinking. It’s not so much that climate change needs to displace current curricula. It is more that–in every field, every discipline–must use the fully emergent frame of climate action in every thing that they teach.

Literature, psychology, philosophy, business, history, the sciences, the arts, all must situate themselves clearly and explicitly within the context of a society that MUST reverse the climate impacts of human civilization. This is the baseline requirement. If we lose the climate action battle, we lose everything we value, too.

In this light, our workshop will focus on what needs to change, in the classroom, if we were to attain our ideal goal of actually permeating our pre-K to 16 education system. What at it’s core, does a systems approach to framing curricula within the context of a sustainability-powered climate action really mean?

There is no dearth of material on teaching climate science. There is also a substantial body of work on the social science aspects of climate change. But if we recognize that such a shift must in fact rest within an ecosystem approach to climate action, what would we need to “take” from the complexity-sustainability-resilience triad, to bring into the delivery of an enlightened climate-savvy curriculum.

Workshop B

Joyful Learning: Using Playful Pedagogy to Address Our Most Pressing Sustainability Problems

Casey Meehan (Western Technical College)

If we want to make it safely and sanely through all the challenges coming our way, we’re going to need to come out and play. – Bernie DeKoven

How might we engage our students in learning that leaves them (and us) feeling renewed at a time when everything in this world seems to be going so wrong? What if we took a more playful approach to teaching about the world’s most pressing problems? Humans are by nature playful beings, yet play is largely overlooked as a framework for engaging others in “Serious Discussions” like sustainability and the climate crisis. Play is not a denial of reality at all, but a tool we use to make sense of those things that are too big to comprehend. A playful path has numerous benefits for learning, mental health, and connecting us to each other and the world we live in.

This workshop is designed less like a game of Trivial Pursuit and more like a trampoline. We’ll discuss some empirical underpinnings and examples of play and playfulness, but we will really be using this workshop as a launchpad to explore what a more playful path could look like within the context of your classroom. If the idea of taking a more playful path to address sustainability is something that sparks curiosity within you, come out of your hiding place and join us. But fair warning: This is not a sit-and-get workshop. You can expect multiple chances to interact with others, a significant amount of time to revise or design some or your own curriculum to be more playful, and you’ll probably leave with more questions than you came with. Who knows? We might even have some fun along the way.

2:30 PM -5:00 PM


Workshop C

Teaching Climate Change Affectively

Krista Hiser (University of Hawaii) and Kim Smith (Portland Community College)

This workshop identifies the psychological barriers that inhibit our sense of efficacy, such as fear, scales of issues and time, and self-limiting frames of actions and outcomes, and offers tools to overcome adversity, develop communication skills, and build our resiliency.

This workshop will use lessons from eco-psychology, eco-philosophy, and The Work that Reconnects, to help you tap into your emotions and build reserves of personal resilience so that you can face climate change with clear eyes, not sink into despair, and learn practices that will be psychologically supportive and empowering.

The workshop leaders will offer suggestions for how you can teach these challenging topics in your classes and take action in your own communities.

Workshop D

Board Games: A Better Approach to Sustainability Learning

Linda Pope (Prescott College)

Board games are the future of education. Games are one of the most effective ways to learn, providing an authentic experience that is entertaining, engaging, and exciting, while teaching skills and transforming thoughts. Board games also provide a means to reach more students as well as provide a stronger learning opportunity. Sustainability education is not yet widespread and, when available, the methods used are often not effective in changing people’s behavior. Research shows us that teaching sustainability through games provides an untapped potential not only for learning but for changing behaviors as well.

“Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” —John Dewey (1859-1952).

This session begins with the story of the author and how she discovered the importance of including the use of board games in education. The introduction also provides access to an extensive literature review on the topic. Time is reserved to discuss the incorporation of games into curriculums, the subsequent benefits and challenges. We have lost the ability as citizens to translate knowledge into action, and action and knowledge are intimately intertwined. When properly designed, games can effectively provide the combination of inclusive experience in a non-threatening environment that reinforces learning.

As an example, a board game, Paved Paradise TM: A Tiny House Ecovillage Board Game, currently in development by the author, will be played by the session participants. The game balances learning with entertainment as it teaches in a non-judgmental fashion how to live with no impact on the planet, and within a short period of time, demonstrates all of the necessary actions that must be taken to bring us back into balance with our environment, and have our lifestyles become restorative in nature once again.

6-8 PM

Bonus Workshop E


Teaching Key Sustainability Competencies: Focus on Future Thinking

Davis Bookhart (Hong Kong University of Science & Technology)

Consider these situations: a giant Chinese rocket falls uncontrollably from the sky. Disposable masks begin washing up in large numbers on beaches. Discarded solar panels in Australia cause a massive waste problem. They all have the same root cause; our natural weakness when it comes to thinking in the future. As humans we all have a significant shortcoming; our ability to anticipate future scenarios and how our decisions today have future implications. This has nothing to do with our intelligence (consider how sophisticated the rocket was to get in the sky in the first place).

We all have the experience with simple future planning; packing the right seasonal clothes for traveling or developing a syllabus for a class. For more complex events, like weddings, we can hire professionals to help organize and plan. However, planning for the longer-term, and anticipating future outcomes, continues to be one of our weak spots.

This workshop will explore some practical tools that may help us teach future thinking to students and help them become aware of our natural shortcomings, and what they can do about it. Specifically we will explore ways to teach (1) scenario planning – the ability to map out different situations in the future and work towards planning for each scenario, and (2) backcasting – the ability to set a goal for the future and work backwards. We will also focus on (3) inverse thinking as a way to force ourselves into thinking about the future in a different way, and will discuss how students can train themselves to look for (4) weak signals. Finally we will use the concept of (5) false contradictions to demonstrate how many of the sustainability problems of today are the result of our inability to see that most contradictions (e.g., economy or the environment) are false when we examine them over time.

Friday, June 18


Looking ahead: A roundtable discussion on options for accreditation and certification

12:00 Noon (Eastern)

Session Chair:

Ira Feldman, Sustainability Curriculum Consortium

Invited presentations:

– Sustainable Human and Environmental Systems (SHES) Roundtable

– International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP)

– Eco-Canada

– EduC Label

Roundtable participants:

Michael Reiter, Bethune-Cookman

Paul Barresi, Southern New Hampshire University

Richard C. Smardon, SUNY-ESF

Gina MacIlwraith, ISSP

Kevin Nilsen, Eco-Canada

Carina Hopper, ESSEC Business School

Johanna Wagner, EduC Label

Ashwani Vasishth, Ramapo College

Todd LeVasseur, College of Charleston

other accreditation and certification participants to be announced…

Next steps and Close