Frameworks for Learning

Sustainable Summer tackles substantive academic concepts and seeks very specific educational outcomes from our students. Much of how we learn is experiential and is designed to be interactive, engaging, and quite often downright fun. The program includes a variety of mediums for learning such as instructor and guest lectures, community interactions and field visits, student discussions and reflection activities, and journal assignments. Students will receive a syllabus at the start of the program that helps establish clear aims of the program and what students will be expected to demonstrate.

Program Outcomes

Program-specific goals are detailed in the course syllabus. Broadly speaking, the program helps students to…

  • develop “eco-literacy” and critical thinking about sustainability
  • develop understanding of the interconnectedness of human and natural systems; the linkages found in nature and those connecting economic systems, environment, and society
  • develop ​the ​analytic, communication, ​interpersonal, ​and positive risk taking skills necessary to create change in their local and global communities
  • develop awareness of the wider world
  • develop a sense of their own role as a world citizen
  • respect and value diversity
  • improve understanding of how the world works
  • develop passion towards and commitment to social and environmental justice
  • understand and commit to participation in communities, both locally and globally
  • understand how to work with others to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place
  • take responsibility for their actions
  • improve competency in critical inquiry and synthesizing data
  • develop an appreciation of the necessity and difficulty of making ethical choices.
  • understand and recognize connections among different disciplines

Pre-Program Assignments

An introductory pre-program mini-course is designed to build a common foundation in key concepts. In a few short readings and video lectures, we define sustainability and major factors that contribute to unsustainable impacts; and establish basic ways to analyze sustainability, and methods for creating sustainable solutions. Additionally, students will be asked to give a 1 – 2 minute presentation at the beginning of the program on a brief assignment they will have completed prior to arrival. Topics will be assigned a few weeks before the program along with instructions. Topics are typically related to the history, politics, or culture of a region we are visiting. The presentation is very casual and is intended as a collaborative and interactive method for helping the group better understand the place we are visiting. Pre-program course work should be completed prior to departure for Sustainable Summer. Most students will require 2 – 4 hours of total time to complete the pre-program coursework.

Field Activities, Reflections, and Discussions

Activities frequently take place in the field – site visits to a hydro facility or farmer’s collective, for instance. These experiences lend themselves to reflection and discussion (which can take place anywhere from sitting in a circle in a field to an open air thatch hut). All students are encouraged to think critically about the issues at hand, and to share their opinions regularly in our evening group discussions. We will frequently reference our essential question for the program, which provides some structure to our experience discussing sustainability and help connect seemingly disparate concepts. Our field staff typically facilitates discussions, but students that would like to try their hand at facilitation will have an opportunity to do so.

Journal Entries

Students are expected to keep a journal to help stimulate purposeful engagement with the experience and critical reflection. Students are occasionally assigned assignments or prompts focus reflection on an important concept. Journal entries are not collected and reviewed, but some of the ideas and reactions that come out of a journal entry will ideally be shared with the group. We also keep a “group journal,” which any student is welcome to contribute to at any time. Some group journal entries may be posted on the Sustainable Summer program blog. Journal entries can be creative and include drawings, question lists (good for generating discussion), poems or songs, and other mixed-media elements. The aim is for these entries to be concise while also allowing space for students to present their comprehension of a theme or an issue.

Sustainability Action Plan

Students will develop a personal Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), which will document the steps they would like to take when they return home to live more sustainably. The SAP should detail changes they will make on a daily, monthly and yearly basis, and will also outline steps to encourage members of their family, peer groups and community to adopt similar measures.

Global Citizenship Workshops

During the program, we dedicate some time – typically in the evenings – to the development of global citizenship. A global citizen as someone who is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen; respects and values diversity; has an understanding of how the world works; is passionately committed to social justice; participates in the community at a range of levels, from the local to the global; works with others to make the world a more equitable and sustainable place; and takes responsibility for their actions. This involves developing knowledge and understanding of social justice; globalization and interdependence; sustainable development; power and governance structures. Sessions can include an exploration of different leadership styles; empathy; principles of collaboration; speaking and presenting; active listening; debate and compromise; goal-setting, planning, and decision-making; and introspection and self-awareness.

Case Study

It’s easy to be green when you have the time, resources, and autonomy to do so. But the real-world is far more complicated. We’ll work through a multi-stakeholder case study related to a local issue so students can better understand the process of negotiation and compromise that is needed to implement sustainable solutions. Multi-stakeholder negotiations bring representatives of different interest groups (local business, industry, conservation, government, citizens, etc.) together to attempt to find common ground and equitable outcomes to problems. After becoming familiar with a local environmental issue, students will engage in a mock multi-stakeholder negotiation, putting newfound knowledge and leadership skills to use.

Learning Should Be FUN!

We realize that this type of language may appeal to parents and educators much more so than students. So, to students that may be wondering if Sustainable Summer is “all work and no fun,” we assure you that there will be ample time to make new friends, hang out, explore, be silly, and be active. If you’re not sure that the program strikes the right balance between structured and unstructured time, between fun and serious time, or between experiential and academic learning, just give us a call and we’ll put you in touch with past students who can help describe our approach from student’s perspective.