You are here

Part 2: Teaching & Learning Activities

This section of the Toolkit contains activities that can be used in the classroom to enhance student knowledge and skills about sustainability.

In addition, you can also visit the Resources and Assignment sections of the Field Guide to Sustainability Education (PSU)

As you work to integrate sustainability-related activities into your curriculum, keep these tips in mind for integrating sustainability concepts into your existing class (adapted from

  • Recognize that sustainability is not an “add-on” content area; rather, sustainability is easy to integrate into already existing lessons as in-class examples of concepts and as a context for activities and problem sets.
  • When teaching a core course concept, use sustainability-related examples.
  • Utilize this key activity on facilitating course conversations on energy and clean power
  • Ask in every course, “How can you use what we are learning to make the world a better place?”
  • Add into every course, “How could we create these products and processes without polluting?”
  • Add into every course, “How could we make these products and processes more sustainable?”
    • Create real world problem-solving projects, so students can help their communities become more environmentally sound and sustainable.
  • Integrate sustainability-related understandings into learning objectives and assessments.
  • Add sustainability-related learning outcomes into your course objectives.

Examples of In-Class Activities

EDUC 4234: Science, Technology, Society


• Students are required to watch specific documentaries (e.g., Tapped, The Future of Food, Gasland, The War on Whistle Blowers, Who Killed the Electric Car, Blue Vinyl, Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream)

• Students take notes on the documentaries then list and look up the validity of four points in the documentaries and research for an alternative/contradictory stance on those points

• In some cases, students will design Lesson plans OR Business plans OR reports, depending on their major

EDUC 4234: Science, Technology, Society

Individual inquiries

• Students need to identify a controversial issue from a list in Moodle. Their issue needs to be a question that cannot simply be answered by reporting results collected in some other study. Their problem needs to be investigated and answered through collecting and analyzing data from a variety of types of sources.

• They will review what is already known and has been reported in the literature related to their problem. It is expected that the review of literature will include at least four sources. Searching through ERIC may be the most effective way to gather research-based literature. Students will need to include turn in an annotated bibliography* after the presentation.

• Students will introduce their presentation by briefly describing the issue and explaining why addressing the issue is important. They then present their issue in any way EXCEPT a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation. The more creative the better. They have 30 minutes to present and answer questions from classmates.

EDUC 4234: Science, Technology, Society


• The Debate Team Project is a series of debates where the team of the day debates the issue of the day. Each team will have a “yes” and a “no” side, both of which involve two people.

• The debate will generally last 45-60 minutes with time for questions at the end.

• The debate topics vary from the cloning human cells, to teaching creationism (aka, intelligent design) in schools, to transhumanism (transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities).

EDUC 4234: Science, Technology, Society

Final oral exam

• Students will be given all questions in advance. The questions are simply summaries of the pros and cons of all of the topics, presentations, individual presentations, documentaries, debates, guest speakers’ topics, and field trips.

• While sitting in a circle, students will be asked one question, another student will be asked to state the other side of the topic, and the original student will be given another opportunity to defend their side.

• This will continue until all questions have been asked and answered.

LaCaille’s Social Psychology Behavior Change Group Project

LINK to pdf overview of this group project.

Frank’s Wilderness Philosophy discussion topics

LINK to pdf overview of this project

Gaardner’s Mapping a Social Environmental Conflict

LINK to pdf overview of this project

Examples of Community Based Learning/Service Learning

ESAT 3410: Performance, Nutrition, and Weight Management

Each week, Exercise Science students go to Laura MacAurthur School for an hour to meet with a 3rd grade class. The students pair off and UMD students teach their 3rd grade partners about exercise, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle choices. Each week the students participate in hands on activities, group games, or discussions based around a weekly topic that could include things such as the digestive system, healthy portion sizes, the muscular system, and a “just right” and healthy body type. Each session is ended by a short reflection on the days activities and what the students have learned from the activity.

WS 1000: Introduction to Women’s Studies

Students participating in Community-Based Learning through this course have the option to choose a site from a list of approved locations for the course.  It is the student’s’ responsibility to serve 20 or more hours at their chosen site over the course of the semester.  Throughout the semester students then reflect on their experiences at their site and how it relates to in-class learning. At the end of the semester students produce a report to give to their peers about what they learned and experienced during their time at their chosen site.

ELED 1010: Introduction to Elementary Education

Students in ELED 1010 are required to complete two hours per week in an elementary school classroom.  Students assist teachers in a variety of ways and are required to reflect upon their experience throughout the semester.  UMD students work in groups to design and implement a lesson during the Extravaganza week and participate in an interview with teachers at their schools.  This opportunity allows for UMD students to get a hands-on experience of what it is like being a classroom teacher in a current elementary school.

Other On-Campus Activities

In addition to in-class activities and service learning opportunities, faculty can arrange the following sustainability-related enrichment opportunities for their students.

Campus Sustainability Tours and Presentations
UMD staff love to share their sustainability progress and challenges in the daily operations of our campus through Tours and Presentations. Note: some tours are behind-the-scenes, and may only be available to smaller classes.

– Kitchen/Dining Center
– Campus Heating Plant
– Campus Gardens
– Stormwater features
– Campus farm

If you can't take a class period, you can always assign students to take the online UMD Campus Sustainability Tour. 

Internships and service-learning
Students have opportunities to seek internships with a number of faculty or staff.

Second column content

- Undergraduate Research Opportunity Projects are a great way for students to gain a stipend while gaining valuable research experience on sustainability topics.

- The Kirby Leadership Program offers an optional sustainability emphasis for students to pursue a leadership certificate, along with hands-on experience with sustainability. 

- Boulder Lake Environmental Learning Center  offers a place for student involvement, through internships or UROPS, to explore sustainability and environmental education.