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June 26, 2018

Four students stand on a hillside and look off to the horizonAs a professor, it can be hard to implement real-world projects and activities into lesson plans. That’s why a team of Arizona State University sustainability researchers, staff and students created a website, “Real-World Learning Experiences for Sustainability,” to help instructors design different kinds of applied projects and implement them into coursework.

“We wanted this to be an open access tool to help facilitate real-world learning — not just at ASU, but anywhere in the world,” said Sydney Lines, Project Coordinator for Sustainability Connect, a platform for applied projects in sustainability problem solving at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Lines designed the RWLE website using content developed by Katja Brundiers, a School of Sustainability Assistant Research Professor; Aaron Redman, a School of Sustainability doctoral student; and Dorothy Trippel Broomall, a School of Sustainability alumnus and adjunct faculty member.

The RWLE are divided into four levels: beginner to advanced, or freshman to senior. Each level revolves around a different concept: bringing the world into the classroom, visiting the world, simulating the world and engaging the world. The website provides a toolkit for each level of learning, including activities connected to the School of Sustainability’s core competencies, downloadable resources, links to videos and other assets, and featured real-world examples.

“We invite course instructors to send us their Real-World Learning Experiences so that we can incorporate them into the model,” Brundiers said.

Each of the RWLE teaches knowledge, skills and mindsets that are necessary for tackling sustainability challenges. But the toolkits aren’t just meant for School of Sustainability instructors — they’re useful for any university professor. Since sustainability is an interdisciplinary field, the RWLE are designed in such a way that they can be adapted to a variety of disciplines.

“At the ASU School of Sustainability, we value hands-on, real-world experience for students,” said Christopher Boone, dean of the school. “The Real-World Learning Experiences website is a valuable tool with a wealth of resources that make it easy for professors from any field, at any university, to teach their students practical sustainability lessons.”

Though the RWLE website is a new resource for instructors, it’s already being adopted by other prestigious universities around the country in their sustainability programs.