In recent decades, the sciences and the humanities have found their ways to grow ever farther apart. You don’t hear many biology students raving over their literature course load, just as you do not hear language majors getting excited about their required chemistry class. Scientists write papers about data, while people in the humanities write stories about society. However, a group of innovative language professors at the University of Minnesota have found a way to connect these disciplines in a new venture.
They call it the Green German Project.
It all began last summer when an opportunity for grant proposals arose. The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) was offering support for new projects, and University of Minnesota Professor Charlotte Melin decided to apply. Melin collaborated with Beth Kautz of the College of Liberal Arts Language Center, and together they began to build a bridge to span the distance between the sciences and the humanities. Melin wanted to give German students the “opportunity to pay attention to what’s going on in sustainability.”
Melin had already been integrating aspects of sustainability into her courses for a few years. However, she wanted to be able to reach more students. The goal of the Green German Project is to develop an online curriculum for other teachers to use to inform students about sustainability. With respect to difficulty level, “the target was intermediate to advanced.” Both high school and college students would benefit from the available coursework.
The project contains fifteen modules on different sustainability subjects, designed to mirror the fifteen weeks of the University semester. Subjects range from recycling to carbon footprints to food, focusing both on Germany and the United States. “I knew people would be interested in this type of initiative,” said Melin.
The Green German Project was launched through College in the Schools, where high school students have the opportunity to engage in college-level courses without attending a university. Although these students followed the model directly, the Green German Project’s webpage offers resources for a wide range of levels if you want to do something different. “It is amazing to me how many people are interested in this project!” Melin added.
Although this project has been a large success and serves as a great model for others interested in sustainability, it didn’t come without trials. Connecting two very different sectors of education “creates interesting challenges to working in a broadly interdisciplinary way,” stated Melin. She was initially inspired by the University of Rhode Island’s approaches to sustainability and languages. Kautz found it most interesting to search the web and find out about exciting things taking place in Germany and “learning so much along the way.” Although she had some previous experience in sustainability, “This is the first time I’ve connected it with my job,” she said.
Besides creating the online Green German Project modules, Melin continues to involve her own students in sustainability. This spring, she hosted an event titled Language/Environment/Media where students could submit sustainability-related projects in foreign languages and compete for prizes. This endeavor was funded through one of the Institute on the Environment’s mini-grants. Melin was “amazed at what they came up with,” and hopes to host the event again next year. “Kommando Rhino: Der Kampf für Wagenplätze” won the award for Best Upper Division Individual Project. The video highlighted student Michael Peterson’s trip to Freiburg, Germany, where he learned about the disappearing nature of “green” cities in Germany and the people trying to bring them back. His project focused on the difficulties and successes of a group of people that are distanced from the modern consumerism lifestyle. Living in Freiburg taught Peterson about sustainability in other cultures, especially within communities. Melin was impressed with “the integration of study abroad experiences and real world experience” into the presentations, and thought that it added a valuable frame to the content.
Melin and Kautz will be presenting some of their findings through the Green German Project at a workshop at the Goethe-Institut in Chicago in September. When asked about the future of the project, Kautz described it as “a jumping off point.” The team hopes to continue to develop the practice of sustainability and spread the word about the difference it can make.
Photo credit: ESRI Redlands
Mr. Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute), will give a public lecture titled: “Mapping and Geographic Analysis Supports Collaboration and Decision Making” on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, beginning at 4:30 p.m., at Cowles Auditorium, in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 301 19th Ave. S, on the West Bank of the Minneapolis campus.
Mr. Dangermond earned a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Minnesota in 1968, with a focus on landscape architecture and urban planning. In 2008, the U presented him with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree for his pioneering geographic information system (GIS) research and work. Mr. Dangermond is invited to campus as the first Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the Institute on the Environment (IonE).
Esri was founded in 1969 by Jack, and his wife Laura, as a small research group in Redlands, CA, focused on land use planning and decision-making. Today, Esri is a software giant, providing
research and tools that are instrumental in the diverse work of more than 350,000 clients world-wide. From distribution routes and surveying, to hurricane response management and cancer
risk analysis, Esri technology is a staple for public entities and private companies around the globe.
Sponsored jointly by IonE and the College of Design, the lecture is free and open to the public; however, pre-registration is required. To register, or for more information on the event, visit: z.umn.edu/dangermond
Winona LaDuke Image © Robert Del Tredici
“Honoring the Earth, Transforming Our Communities: Winona LaDuke on Environmental Justice,” is sponsored by the Women’s Center.
PLEASE NOTE TIME AND LOCATION CHANGE
Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs (http://www1.umn.edu/twincities/maps/HHHSPA/) FREE and open to the public.
Dessert reception and book-signing follows the lecture. Internationally acclaimed author, orator and activist, Winona LaDuke will be speaking about her work regarding environmental justice and it’s impact on human rights and social justice. Attendees can gain insight regarding questions like: What is environmental and what does it have to do with me? How does environmental justice go beyond “going green?” What can I do to affect change in my community? If you are experiencing problems with the form, or need to request disability accommodations, please contact the Women’s Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-625-9837. For event details, please visit http://www.umn.edu/women.
College and university faculty from all disciplines are invited to attend a hands-on workshop, Sustainability Across the Curriculum, on June 7-8, 2012. Sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, Institute for Advanced Study and many of the region’s colleges and universities engaged in sustainability through the Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability (UMACS), the workshop will take place at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve located 35 minutes north of the Twin Cities. Individual faculty members as well as departmental and interdisciplinary faculty teams are encouraged to use the workshop as a chance to start the work of integrating sustainability themes into their teaching.
Faculty who wish to develop courses, course components or an entire curriculum around sustainability should apply to the workshop, which will include two days of presentations, exercises, discussions, reflection and planning. Participants will hear success stories from faculty colleagues across disciplines who have already infused sustainability into their courses and programs, connect with community experts in sustainability, enjoy outdoor place-based experiences, and benefit from activities and dialogue to help them write or adapt a syllabus, create new course activities or elements, develop readings and envision learning outcomes for future sustainability students.
Cost for the workshop: $200. One night of on-site lodging, meals and all activities are included. A full scholarship and a small honorarium are available to University of Minnesota faculty who enroll and agree to develop a sustainability component within an existing or new course.
Who should attend: Tenured or tenure-line faculty from any college or university, adjunct faculty and instructors who are teaching on an on-going basis and advanced graduate students already engaged in teaching and recommended by a faculty mentor are invited. Faculty teaching in humanities, arts, social sciences and the professions are especially encouraged to imagine connections between their work and sustainability and to attend.
SUSTAINABILITY WORKSHOP APPLICATION:
Please note that graduate student applicants must submit a letter of support from a faculty member familiar with their experience with and interest in teaching sustainability courses. This letter may be emailed to email@example.com.
More about the workshop: The program will begin at 9 am Thursday, June 7, with a keynote address covering sustainability research and teaching as well as some more personal perspectives, a holistic outdoor tour along a path through the three Minnesota “biomes” present at Cedar Creek, presentations by current University of Minnesota faculty teaching sustainability in different disciplines, dialogue and discussion about different approaches to sustainability and its place in curriculum, time for both personal reflection and for individual or team discussion with colleagues, field visits to the biodiversity experiment, cedar swamp and tall grass prairie, and a reception, dinner and panel discussion with sustainability experts from the corporate, non-profit and governmental sectors. The workshop will end at 2 pm, Friday, June 8.
Families and child care: On-site child care available, by individual arrangement, for preschool through early school-age children by a Red-Cross certified, experienced babysitter (age 17). Kids will try out environmental and art activities. For more information, please contact Beth Mercer-Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider a great after-workshop event, BioBlitz 2012, at Cedar Creek: The spring BioBlitz activity, which is part contest, part festival and part educational activity, takes place at Cedar Creek, starting at 5 pm, June 8. All participants, including families with children, are invited to be part of this intensive 24-hour survey to find all the plants and animals on site. More information available:
About the Workshop Site, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
Cedar Creek is a research station operated by the University of Minnesota. Located 35 miles north of the Twin Cities in East Bethel, MN, Cedar Creek’s 5400 acres contain over 20 different plant communities including tall grass prairie, deciduous hardwood forest, marsh, bog, and white cedar swamp. Trails wind through forest and bog, around lake and savanna. Current research includes studies on plant diversity and productivity and how they are changing under human pressures.
The highly-cited David Tilman has his plant biodiversity experiment here, alongside that of Peter Reich. A visit to the visually appealing research sites provides the background to fuel productive sustainability discussions.
The University of Minnesota has the resources and expertise to address many of the world’s challenges and opportunities, from economics to sustainable energy. The question that drove a recent conference was: How can the University build upon these strengths to extend its global impact?
On Friday, February 17th, the Global Programs and Strategy (GPS) Alliance sponsored the inaugural international research conference on Addressing Global Challenges through International Research. As a land-grant institution, the University’s mission is to generate knowledge through research, and share this knowledge and innovations to help build a healthier, sustainable world. This conference highlighted global research by University of Minnesota faculty, researchers, and graduate students and encouraged discussion on diverse global challenges, with a focus on building collaboration across disciplines, shared learning, and exploring the essentials of conducting research abroad.
Nathan Mueller, a PhD student focusing on environmental issues related to agricultural production, had the chance to see several panels and was a panelist himself. Mueller remarked how “Listening and talking with the faculty speakers was a clear indication for me that the University has both incredible depth, but also unusual breadth of expertise to seek solutions for complex global problems.”
Major themes centered around nexuses of strength at the University, including food security and agricultural production, education, global health, energy and the environment, and economics and poverty. A forum of professors and deans at the cutting edge of global governance issues explored opportunities and weaknesses for solving problems at this scale.
The afternoon brought an exciting cross-sector panel of experts. Moderated by the Dean and Associate Vice President for International Programs, the panel included the keynote speaker, Dr. Stonner, as well as representatives from Medtronic, the Global Initiative for Food Systems Leadership, the McKnight Foundation, and Land O’Lakes.
In addition to emphasizing the global impact that faculty and researchers at the University already have, the conference provided an excellent opportunity to strengthen collaboration across disciplines and colleges.
The GPS Alliance is the central international office for the University of Minnesota system, and works closely on the campus level to engaging individual students and faculty members to globalize teaching, learning, research, and engagement.