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UF faculty workshop hopes to bring sustainability concepts to the classroom


By Kathryn Williams – WUFT contributor

University of Florida faculty members will come together in May to promote the sustainability curriculum at the university.

The University of Florida Fellows in Sustainability Prairie Project Workshop, which met for the first time in 2010, hosts professors for lectures and discussions to develop new courses in an effort to introduce sustainability concepts into the university.

This year’s workshop will be held May 6 and 7 at Prairie Creek Lodge.

The workshop will include about 30 UF professors, according to the UF Office of Sustainability website.

The project, based on a national program created at Emory University, focuses on developing new coursework and concepts for sustainability curriculum. Professors are selected from a variety of academic backgrounds.

“Understanding sustainability is essential to our future,” said Martha Monroe, a professor at the School of Forestry Resources and Conservation at UF. “That should not come from one course or one department, or one major.”

Some University of Florida students are already seeing the benefits of the project.

“Our resources are limited,” said Nana Tufouh, a sophomore heath science and economics double major. “It’s important to start conserving more and be educated.”

A version of the project for graduate students began in 2011.

“Many grad students help faculty with their courses,” Monroe said.  “They should have the ability to interact with sustainability as well.

Criteria for applying to the Prairie Project include creativity in teaching, leadership qualities, and an interest in collaborating with others.

“Social learning tends to happen when there is trust,” Monroe said. “Having relationships tends to build social learning.  It’s professional development.”

Some students, like Nicole Young, a senior math major, find the collaborative nature of the project to be significant.

“I think it’s important to see unity among the staff,” Young said.  “(Sustainability) is a subject that directly affects everyone.”

Other Florida universities have had programs similar to the Prairie Project.

In the spring of 2010, the University of Central Florida hosted three-day faculty Course Innovation Workshop focused on sustainability, according to the UCF sustainability website.

Though the deadline for graduate fellows program at UF passed on March 15, UF faculty members can still apply.

The application is on the UF Office of Sustainability website. The six-question application is due on April 1.

“A project like this could enlighten and invigorate (professional) teaching,” Monroe said.

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