Academic Exchange Quarterly     Winter 2016     ISSN 1096-1453     Volume 20, Issue 4


Guest Editorial

Sustainability Education as a Curriculum Emphasis…..
As an agroecologist my passion for sustainable food production and security has always been at the top
of my learning goals and living values, in a pursuit of sustainability education, since my college days,
at the University of Bologna (Italy), in the early 1980s. After completing my studies, I embarked in my first
professional assignment in Sierra Leone (West Africa), where I taught agriculture courses at a vocational school,
for two years. This experience in the tropics truly opened my eyes to the diversity of resources, environmental
conditions, people’s knowledge, culture and technologies to achieve food production. Food is at the base of
a sustainable development for any human context! Although the principles for growing food may be the same,
farming systems are inevitably shaped by the biological, and environmental features of landscapes, and also
the technological, cultural knowledge and ethics of people, inhabiting specific world regions. Anthroposophist
Rudolph Steiner’s approach to education in the 1920s emphasized that the farm, or garden becomes the most
effective learning space for a school. I agree with this philosophy and therefore envision that an education for
sustainability should expose students to learning how to grow, cook and preserve good food, while conserving
the natural resources (soil, seed, water, air), that allow the growth and production of the same. Such a process
is cyclical, it happens through the alternations of seasons and relies on the renewability of the above mentioned
resources.

I recognize that pursuing an education for sustainability is a very ambitious goal and a much more complex
endeavor. Nonetheless, it is a very much needed cultural shift for the education of present times. Sustainability
education embodies the distinctive attributes of making learning more interdisciplinary, transformative and
effective to prepare all students to the challenges of living in the 21st century and beyond. In a world challenged
ever more by population growth and diminishing resources an education for sustainability should become an
imperative agenda to be pursued through development of curricula, at institutions big and small. These and similar
study programs, or simply courses in sustainability should employ ecology, evolutionary theory and ethics as major
constructs for an education geared towards achieving a sustainable development. Obviously, many other ancillary
constructs become valuable in this context. I am referring for example to: energy, conservation, community, just to
name a few. Also, appropriate adaptations may be necessary to learn about sustainability in present-day education
and to teach these concepts at various levels of instruction.

This AEQ winter issue is a collection of articles for teachers who are committed to transformative education through
curriculum development, implementation and evaluation. It includes contributions about reflections on innovative
classroom practices, creative pedagogies, case studies and more. By embracing the much needed sustainability
approach in developing curriculum, educators will be able to make connections to many other concepts and, most
importantly, impart knowledge across disciplines. This effort demonstrates how education can contribute effectively to
improve the world while empowering all learners to live more sustainably. The sustainability education effort inspires
all learners to apply what is being taught towards the realization that we, humans are one component of complex
ecosystems and tampering with their functioning may lead to grave consequences to maintain socio-economic
systems. Thus, the effects of sustainability education become powerful to generate a culture of humility, an
understanding that the knowledge about living systems is only approximate, and that inclusiveness must be
fostered in the learning process, as predicated by ecological theories and practices.

For a discussion of courses and curricula in sustainability read my article
“Sustainability Education as a Curriculum Emphasis ” in SIB SoTL Volume XIII

Bruno Borsari, Ph.D.
Professor in the Department of Biology
Winona State University, MN
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