Green Hand-in-Hand – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Green Hand-in-Hand

Student-Professor Collaboration Re-envisions Eco-Curriculum What happens when a course on living sustainably inspires new ways to be “green?” At Hobart and William Smith, students and their professor start collaborating. That’s what happened in one of Assistant Professor of Education Paul Kehle’s courses. “Last fall, two of my seniors, Nate Taxel and Amy Jo Miller, were taking my ‘Teaching for Environmental Sustainability’ course,” Kehle explained. “They thought that the class was great but that it was too focused on the community and not on personal, practical sustainability. “Taxel and Miller’s argument was that if we want society to change, individuals have to change first and that this personal change was a real challenge—as evidenced by some environmental studies majors who still drive the quarter of a mile from a dorm to Saga or the gym,” Kehle said. “So I told them, ‘Design the course you wished I was teaching.'” Rising to the occasion, Taxel and Miller designed their own syllabus for a course they called “Practical Sustainability.” It was so masterful that other students demanded it be taught. Kehle wasn’t able to teach the course that spring, so he challenged Taxel to teach it as his Senior Integrative Experience in environmental studies under Kehle’s supervision. “We took a passionate and no-compromise attitude when creating a class that advocated dramatic lifestyle changes and gave students the skills they needed to make them,” said Taxel ’07. “The final product was a curriculum that taught students how to live much more sustainably on campus and also gave them the tools they needed to be sustainable throughout the rest of their lives.” In addition to readings and discussions about ecological, philosophical, practical and spiritual theories about sustainable living, the course also included several green experiments. Changing their perspectives and their way of life, many of Taxel’s students were surprised by how the course affected them. “On course evaluations, it was common to see comments such as ‘This course should be a graduation requirement’ and ‘A course that makes a difference in my daily life,'” said Kehle. Christine Moskell ’08 was one of Taxel’s six students. Inspired by the course, she wanted to make sure “Practical Sustainability” continued, so she asked if she could teach it the following year. Carrying the “green” baton, Moskell taught the course this spring to support other students who wanted to explore the same issues. Under Moskell’s leadership and Kehle’s supervision, five new students reexamined their lives in the light of sustainability. They too engaged in more “green” experiments that challenged their knowledge, values, and lifestyles, allowing them to try giving up driving a car, using cell phones, eating meat and doing other less eco-friendly activities. “Enthusiasm for the course and evaluations of Christine’s implementation of the course are both high,” said Kehle. “Students’ comments include ‘This is the first time in four years of college that I’ve been asked to seriously examine my own life’ and ‘I’ve put more effort into this course than any other; more students need this experience.'” Thinking toward the future of the student-created and student-led course, Kehle said that, “Instead of continuing to offer the two separate courses [the small student-led course and Kehle’s regular course], we’re going to integrate the student-led course into my ‘Teaching for Environmental Sustainability’ course,” Kehle explained of the course that is now half of “Practical Sustainability” and half of his previous curriculum. “With our new, re-vitalized ‘Teaching for Environmental Sustainability’ course, we hope to reach even more students on a profound level,” Kehle says. “Especially by continuing to offer an active learning experience and by modeling professor-student collaboration.” Photographed here is Nate Taxel ’07 (second from left) teaching his “Practical Sustainability” course to his six students, including Christine Moskell ’08 (second from right).