Sustainability Education wows Welcome Week
On Friday, September 4, more than 2,500 first-year students and University community members ascended the steps of the Learning and Environmental Sciences building to delve into sustainability-related initiatives in the community and at the U. The Institute on the Environment was transformed into “the Pond,” “the River” and the “the Lake,” all centered on this year’s theme: water. Co-hosted by IonE’s Sustainability Education program and University Services, “Sustainability Action!” featured representatives from academic programs, student groups, external organizations and University operations, all eager to tell their stories.
Arriving students were greeted and sent into the Pond, where they were introduced to the many ways they could get involved in sustainability on campus. Representatives from the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs caught the students’ attention and groups such as Students for Sustainability, Engineers Without Borders and U Students Like Good Food kept it as students made their way through the room. Cornercopia Student Organic Farm used colorful cartons of heirloom tomatoes and overflowing baskets of ground cherries to attract attention.
Excitement built as students made their way to the River, where sustainability education studies and other academic programs shared advice on incorporating sustainability into a college education. At a table showcasing a Grand Challenge Curriculum (GCC) course, Andrew Urevig pitched a class entitled “Can we feed the world without destroying it?” by drawing crowds with a magic ball that showed several different maps related to food production on a local and global scale. Sustainability Education representatives met with students enthusiastic about incorporating the sustainability studies minor into their education. They also handed out stickers and posed the question, “What does sustainability mean to you?” through an interactive art project. Other sought-out groups included the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology and theLearning Abroad Center.
Students then entered the Lake, which provided a space for University Services departments and organizations to show sustainability through a broader Twin Cities lens. Students were given the opportunity to answer the question, “What does sustainable food mean to you?” as they made their way past free sustainable swag from the “It All Adds Up!”campaign on campus.
Finally, the hot and sticky day culminated outside at the Water Bar, an art installation serving local tap waters from Minneapolis, Saint Paul and White Bear Lake. Students were given the unique opportunity to taste different municipal waters and learn about the local aquifers, lakes and rivers from which the water came. Volunteers talked with students about drinking water and what we can do to better protect our water resources.