Positive Student Learning Gains from Community-Connected Classes

coreThe U.S. EPA Environmental Education Sub-Grants program awarded grants to Northern New England Campus Compact member campuses who, “recognize the importance of preparing college students for a lifetime of environmental stewardship, and commit to changing systems and processes on college campuses to better support environmental education through embedding climate change or water quality community projects into existing or new courses.” Campus teams of faculty from a wide variety of disciplines were asked to embed environmentally-focused community projects into four courses and sustain them. The projects needed to focus on climate change or water quality issues, as the grant program noted these as two of the most pressing environmental challenges. Middlebury was one of 4 Vermont campuses that received grant funding and the participating faculty and courses included Professor Jeff Munroe and his GEOL 1033 (Paleolimnology) course, Professor Michelle McCauley and her PSYCH 416 (Environmental Problems and Human Behavior) course, and Professor Molly Costanza-Robinson and her CHEM 311 (Instrumental Analysis) course. All sections of ENVS 0401 over the 2013-2014 academic year also received grant support. An analysis of pre- and post-course survey data showed significant gains in confidence for a suite of indicators including “identifying a range of solutions to environmental issues in my community”,   “identifying stakeholders who influence environmental issues in my community”, “educating others about environmental issues”, and “tackling environmental challenges in my community.” In the words of a student, “This course has given me the chance to see how many different possible ways there are to contribute to solving environmental issues.  I am not sure in which way I want to contribute yet, but I know that I want to focus my studies on solving those issues.”