Interior Architecture (MSIA) Student Research | Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA

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Promoting Sustainability Education: Documenting a Proposed Curricular Unity on the Principles of Sustainability

Author: Julie A. Graf
Date: 2009
Program: Master of Science in Interior Architecture, Chatham University

Despite global warming claims, environmental, economic, and social issues are threatening the well-being of humanity. Learning sustainable practices can help the population become better prepared to improve their expected quality of life. Amid the myriad of claims, certifications, and ever changing technology, individuals of any age and education level may not recognize truly sustainable practices unless they are educated in sustainable principles and theories. Although many educational institutions and multiple industry organizations are striving to educate the population, there remains no mandated, comprehensive sustainability education that reaches the entire public. However, educating the population may be readily achieved through a sustainability curriculum in the public school sector that combines sustainability principles and theories with stewardship. As a graduation requirement, the Department of Education could mandate sustainability service-learning projects that engage students with their communities; whereby, a vast majority of the population is educated at once. A sustainability learning project was spearheaded to educate high school students on the basic principles and theories of sustainable development. This education project serves to highlight sustainable principles as a precursor to integrated sustainable education. The unit aims to equip students with an understanding of the principles and theories that define sustainable practices and inspires them to think globally and, in the process, engages students as environmental stewards to their community utilizing the service-learning model. The absence of recycling initiatives in rural, Western Pennsylvania was the motivation for the project. In this case study, the school building was utilized as a teaching tool where students conducted a waste audit, energy audit, and informal LEED© assessment. Students also formed a Green Task Force to implement sustainable initiatives, including hosting a recycling competition between area schools. A Sustainability Fair was held as a capstone event to further engage the community.