What questions would you ask?

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3 replies [Last post]
livingston.28's picture
AASHE Member
Joined: Mar 11 2010

This winter, I'll be teaching a writing class on "Science and Technology in American Culture," with a focus on sustainability. I want to start off with a survey to gauge students' attitudes towards environmental and sustainability issues, with the aim of stimulating discussion and reflective writing. The goal is not a research instrument (this being a discussion forum on curriculum), but one that would identify potential sites of controversy that could be addressed through student research and writing. For example: "Addressing climate change will require drastic changes to Americans' patterns of consumption."

Can anyone suggest questions or issues that should be included in such a survey?


paul.rowland@aashe.org's picture
AASHE Member
Joined: Jun 12 2009

I'm stealing this from Tom Kelly at UNH in case he doesn't weigh in on it but to get a better understanding of what counts as sustainability you can ask the student: What sustains you?

AASHE Member
Joined: Sep 9 2011

Hi Rick,

I would suggest the age old question of "where is away?"

Not only is that a question that gets students thinking about where stuff goes when they throw it "away," but it is a gateway question to get them to think about supply chains.

If you start asking about trash and recycling, you start asking why paper or electronics go overseas to be recycled, you start to get into all kinds of questions about supply chains and the manufacturing process and natural resource extraction. That leads to all kinds of questions about the energy, and water, and resources that go into the goods we buy and the food we eat.

Then you start getting into some very interesting areas, like the EPA study that showed that 45% of U.S. greenhouse gasses come from provision of goods and provision of food, more than local passenger transport, or appliances.

That in turn, leads to some very thought provoking questions: it is better to be a vegetarian locavore who drives a Hummer, or better to be a hardcore carnivore with a Prius and an energy star fridge?

Hope this helps.

warrenroberts's picture
Joined: Dec 27 2011

Following up with Roger, the "where" question. You can include a module of GIS (mapping) even entirely online such as arcgisonline. Students can exhibit layers of information easily online using http://explorer.arcgis.com to determine where to favorably place services, where are the veggie populations to where to suitably locate the landfills or where does our food come from and how?

Over the 18 years of teaching I can safely say vocationally, our students will be more marketable & also, academically, effective in spatially unraveling the "layers" of sustainability and global issues. The dilemma of course is the technical abilities of our students (and faculty) but free online options make it easier.