Penn State Geography 30

Geography 30, Geographic Perspectives on Sustainability and Human-Environment Systems, is an introductory undergraduate course at Penn State. As a social science course about the natural environment, the course emphasizes how humanity affects the environment and how the environment affects humanity. By recognizing these connections, we can be more effective at making the world a better place - no matter what exactly it is that we mean by "better".

I have contributed to Geog 30 in several capacities. I taught it on campus at University Park during summer 2009 (9 students) and fall 2009 (174 students, 2 TAs). I also helped the Dutton Institute develop an online version of the course. Finally, I taught the online course in Fall 2010 (76 students) and am teaching it in Spring 2011 (189 students, 1 TA).

Syllabi: Summer 2009 (pdf) * Fall 2009 (pdf) * Fall 2010 (pdf) * Spring 2011 (pdf)

A core innovation in both on-campus versions of the course is a semester-long project in which students gained firsthand experience in the practice of sustainability and human-environment geography. Summer 2009 students conducted individual projects based on the performance of some activity they considered to have a positive impact on the environment. Fall 2009 students conducted group projects in conjunction with the Borough of State College, performing field studies in support of policy recommendations presented to the Borough.

At the end of the course project, students submit writing based on their project experience to the public forum of their choice. This lead to two publications from summer 2009 students and about 50 publications for fall 2009 students (see this list, also archived here). The project and public forum writing combine to show students how to be engaged in the practice of sustainability and also bring some course insights to the broader public.

My work on Geog 30 has resulted in several publications:

Collaboration is key to sustainability (pdf), an op-ed published in the 1 Dec 2009 Centre Daily Times, lays out my argument for collaborative sustainability projects.

Public scholarship student projects for introductory environmental courses with Destiny Aman and Andrei Israel, published in Journal of Geography in Higher Education, details the course project that I taught in summer 2009 and the similar project that Destiny taught in Geog 10 (Introduction to Physical Geography).

Teaching astrobiology in a sustainability course, published in Journal of Sustainability Education, discusses how astrobiology (the study of life in the universe) gives students a broader perspective on sustainability. This paper is based mainly on the fall 2009 course.

Created 24 Dec 2009 * Updated 30 Jun 2014