C7: Flash Talk Session - Power of Education and Information

It Starts With Students: Setting a Foundation With Information Literacy & Audio

Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine

All students need to build foundational skills in research and communication in order to be engaged citizens and informed voters on environmental issues. This skill building can begin in a university’s introductory-level general education science course designed for nonscience majors. Through collaboration with a campus library and writing center, a semester-long assignment was designed that requires students to select a current Earth science topic in the news, search for valid and credible sources, write a script for peer review, then audio record their story. The student-produced audio recording assignment allows for students to have a deeper engagement and connection to the content being learned, while allowing for development of their abilities to communicate about a topic outside of their major discipline. Although a one-semester science course cannot allow for a student to achieve mastery of knowledge or skills, the process of researching, writing, and recording a story on a topic relating to Earth and the environment can help students take a thoughtful and informed approach when facing environmental decision-making in their future.


Using Administrative Data to Boost Public Participation

Michael Hand, Research Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Administrative data from urban greening programs—such as residential tree planting—offers a rich and underutilized resource for understanding individual behavior. Conducting interventions to boost program participation that are informed by behavioral science research, for example, can facilitate evidence building and inform program management decisions. This flash talk will illustrate how scientists and practitioners can use administrative data to conduct field tests that will inform decision-making, with examples from natural resource management and other fields.

The 2020 Community College Handbook: Decision-Making

Brandon Morton, Sustainability Project Coordinator, North Lake College

Join the 2020 Editorial Board for the NCSE Community College Handbook for Sustainability Education and Operations in workshopping and providing input on emergent chapters to be added to the online handbook. Participants will read drafts and/or respond to author presentations on the following new topics, which were discussed at the NCSE 2019 Summer Member Meeting. The following will become completed chapters for the 2020 Handbook:

  • Urban Food Systems at Community Colleges
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Sustainability and Underrepresented Populations
  • Workforce and Business Education for Sustainability at CCs
  • Sustainability Beyond STEM: Interdisciplinarity at CCs
  • Making Sustainability Sustainable: Institutionalizing at CCs

Updates to current chapters will also be shared, including a new introduction on “Responding to the Climate Crisis” at Community Colleges. Participant input from both two- and four-year colleges, community partners, and agencies are welcomed at this workshop, where we develop practical content to support, scale, and accelerate work that strengthens science and environmental decision-making in the Community College Network. Participants are encouraged to read the current handbook chapters and to fill out the “submit your case study” if they have a project or process to contribute.

Chapters in the Handbook are written by NCSE Member Institutions within the Community College Network as an opportunity to publish scholarship and operational best practices addressing the unique assets and challenges at community colleges.

Asthma: Perspectives from School to Health Department

Kelly Jones, Postdoctoral Fellow, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

Asthma affects 6.2 million children in the U.S. It is associated with increased absences, poorer school performance, increased risk of hospitalization, and poses a substantial financial burden on families and the healthcare system. The places where children spend time—including indoor and outdoor environments in both public and private spaces—contribute to risk and severity of the disease. Schools represent significant loci of activity in children’s lives, and are uniquely positioned to take advantage of evidence and information to improve environments and thus limit the impact of asthma population-wide. We will bring together four experts to discuss unique opportunities for school nurses and health departments to collaborate in translating research into community applications by utilizing diverse resources and lines of evidence to improve local policies that impact students, families, and the broader community. 


Regional Centers of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development

Brandon Morton, Sustainability Project Coordinator, North Lake College

Under the leadership of the Office of Sustainability at the University of Texas at Arlington, North Texas was recognized on Feb 7, 2019, by the United Nations as a Regional Center of Expertise for Education in Sustainable Development. http://www.rcenetwork.org/portal/. In 2003, in response to the UN resolution on the UNDESD, the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) launched the ESD project, including a global multi-stakeholder network of the Regional Centers of Expertise on ESD (RCEs). An RCE is an existing formal, nonformal and informal organization that facilitates learning towards sustainable development in local and regional communities. As of December 2018, 166 RCEs have officially been acknowledged by the United Nations University worldwide.

After the UNDESD ended in 2014, member states have agreed to advance commitments toward ESD through the Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Program (GAP) on ESD with five priority areas of action: advancing policy by mainstreaming ESD, transforming learning and training environments using the whole-institution approach, building capacities of educators and trainers, empowering and mobilizing youth, and finally accelerating sustainable solutions at the local level. At all levels of society, RCEs play a crucial role in implementing these goals using their local knowledge and global network. Many RCE members are assigned as the Partner Network agencies by UNESCO to lead the world's efforts toward GAP. ESD is also recognized as a key element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goal on education (SDG 4) under Target 4.7 and is considered a very important driver for the achievements of all other SDGs. ESD aims to bring behavior changes to promote sustainability and it is critical to protect natural resources of the planet for future generations. There are cities and regions promoting sustainability throughout the United States, and there are various sustainability initiatives and projects implemented by the city government, NGOs, private sectors, and individuals. An RCE can connect all these actors and accelerate collective impacts over the region, and also provides opportunities to impact the global policies such as GAP on ESD and SDGs through the UN platforms provided by the headquarter of RCEs, UNU. It can also connect the region with other 166 RCEs worldwide to work together and share experiences and challenges of projects on biodiversity, sustainable consumption and production, climate change, engaging youth, promoting higher education, etc. It is valuable to analyze the needs and benefits for establishing an RCE by scaling up local efforts to promote sustainability, increase awareness of ESD, and accelerate collaboration and collective impact. 

RCE North Texas is a network of 75 multidisciplinary stakeholders, including higher education institutions, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, community associations, and local, regional, state, and federal government agencies. An RCE can connect all these actors and accelerate collective impacts over the region, and also provides opportunities for collaboration, education, training, and outreach. The North Texas RCE comprises the 16 counties of North Texas. Of the 10 ecoregions within the state of Texas, the 16-county North Texas RCE is located predominantly in three of them, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin County. But as we make progress and gather momentum, the North Texas RCE will include stakeholders from other counties. The 16 counties of North Texas encompass a diverse and vibrant demographic and economic region. Our region has grown dramatically over the past 40 years, with growth projections indicating a more than doubling in population size from the current 7.2 million residents by the year 2050. In this rapid growth scenario, how will North Texas fare and grow in a sustainable manner as it confronts exploding population projections and associated environmental, economic, and social challenges. At this pivotal moment for North Texas, RCE will be an influencer in the community as cities expand, providing the resources to maximize the potential economic opportunity that well-managed communities can offer and be a conduit for transformative education in North Texas.

We are focused on the following SDGs, deemed priority for our region: Good Health and Well-Being (3); Quality Education (4); Sustainable Cities and Communities (11). Sustainability Education has been recognized as a critical tool for the transition to sustainable development. The genesis of the RCE is a realization by the Institutions of Higher Education that, after implementing sustainability programs on their own campuses, the time is right to bring their knowledge and expertise outside their campus gates and partner at a broader regional scale for a multi-sector approach to education for sustainable development. It also engenders a culture of learning and continuous improvement, providing opportunities for students of all ages to contribute to these efforts and shape new ones. The RCE network brings together multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary members who might not usually work together. As such, they are uniquely placed to help create solutions to sustainability challenges through dialogue, education, training, conferences and symposiums, and learning. They are highly influential policy advocates, able to test policies individually and work collectively to bring policy to scale and advice on future actions. Through these efforts, North Texas RCE helps prepare local leaders of tomorrow with the tools and information they need to make smart and sustainable choices for the future. RCE efforts encourage innovation and new approaches to sustainable development. North Texas RCE can play a central role in the transfer of global technologies, knowledge, and experiences at the local level through our programs and activities.


Pennsylvania-Themed Podcasts on Reversing Global Warming

Anna Nguyen, Undergraduate Researcher, Penn State Brandywine

Podcasts have become popular as an educational tool in recent years, but there is still a lack of podcasts that focus on climate change, specifically ones that address efforts to reduce global warming in Pennsylvania. The goal of this project is to create a series of audio files that address selected Project Drawdown solutions in Pennsylvania. Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization that works to model solutions to reverse global warming, which are categorized into eight sectors, such as electricity generation, food, land use, etc. In order to create the podcasts, various individuals from different Pennsylvania academic institutions, businesses, and nonprofit organizations were identified and interviewed. The end result is 10 podcasts, in which eight of them represent eight Drawdown sectors and the remaining two serve as the introduction and conclusion. The collection of podcasts are published online on a website, together with their corresponding transcripts and supplemental materials. The collection is called “Drawing Down in Pennsylvania,” and it is being shared on environmental/sustainability higher education listservs in the state as well as listservs in Pennsylvania for K-12 science and public libraries. It is hoped that these podcasts will help inform Pennsylvania residents as they make choices and take action for a sustainable future.


Monitoring Crop Water Use From Space 

Martha Anderson, Research Physical Scientist, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Spaceborne Earth observation and agriculture converge through shared goals of protecting the Earth’s valuable resources. Through a unique partnership between USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and NASA, scientists can map crop water use and stress from orbit. This will enable us to monitor droughts, manage irrigation, predict yields, and obtain early warning of developing food crises. ARS researchers developed thermal remote sensing models that use satellite data to measure, at the field scale, how water use patterns change over time. This flash talk presentation will highlight how ARS is using data-driven science to help farmers, scientists, policymakers, and others to better manage agricultural water resources and predict production outcomes.


Jordan King and Jacqueline Kolb, Graduate Students, Arizona State University

This session will present a proposed project to support continued efforts related to sustainability education in NCSE Member Institutions. The NCSE Community of Practice project on developing a consensus statement around program-level core competencies in sustainability is launching its second phase. Two graduate students from the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University will help advance efforts on the project. The second phase pursues two facets: (1) institutional-level support for administrators and staff; and (2) course-level resources for instructors. The objective for this second phase is to assist in the development of nonprescriptive, robust competency-based, sustainability-related programs. At the institutional-level, Jordan King, Ph.D. Student, will develop resources from existing research and best practices. These resources will assist administrators and staff to facilitate and assess the improvement of their own programs. At the course-level, Jacqueline Kolb, a Global Sustainability Science master’s student, will utilize a systematic instructional design process to develop tools for instructors. These tools will support instructors to shift towards a competency-based approach in their courses. In this session, we will briefly share proposed details on the project and invite stakeholders to share ideas and feedback.