As UCI looks towards its brilliant future, the campus community can rely on the core strategic pillars that have been established by Chancellor Howard Gillman. When events on campus reflect these pillars, it is worthwhile to learn more about them.

Under strategic pillar one, Growth That Makes a Difference, the University aims to create programs and structures to facilitate interdisciplinary, problem-based scholarship and teaching, especially for convergent science.

In a unique partnership, Jessica Pratt, a Biological Sciences Assistant Professor of Teaching, and Rossella Santagata, an Associate Professor of Education and Faculty Director of Teacher Education, have created an innovative interdisciplinary learning experience for their undergraduate students.

Pratt and Santagata have matched Global Sustainability capstone students to serve as “Sustainability Consultants” to Cal Teach students. Cal Teach students, who are studying to become mathematics or science teachers, design teaching unit plans for middle and high-school students on sustainability topics that Pratt’s students research during the quarter. Matched student groups exchange written reports and meet to design learning activities that are both aligned with the K-12 curriculum standards and disseminate sustainability topics and best practices.

The collaboration culminates in a mini-conference that showcases the students’ projects. The mini-conference also involves faculty and graduate students in discussions about sustainability and teaching. Among the many topics represented were microfibers and ocean pollution, diet choices and carbon footprint, and household energy efficiency.

“I am thrilled to see this creative event used as an opportunity to teach with excellence and interdisciplinary components regarding sustainability and education,” said Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for the Office of Teaching and Learning at UCI.

“Students in my global sustainability course often commented that when they presented their research projects in class they felt they were ‘preaching to the choir’ about sustainability,” said Pratt. “At the same time, they acknowledged that they often came to care about sustainability through unique educational experiences they had in middle and high school. To extend the reach of their work outside of the sustainability classroom in the hopes of impacting the next generation of earth stewards, collaborating with Rossella’s class to create educational materials related to their research was an obvious next step.”

This year Pratt’s winter global sustainability poster session will take place locally at University High School.

“The new K-12 standards call for an interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said Santagata. “This collaboration with Jessica and her students provides our future math and science teachers an opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to design creative lesson plans for STEM learning in secondary schools. And while working together with Global Sustainability students, Cal Teach students learn and become passionate about sustainability and express a desire to make it a priority in their future teaching. It’s a win win situation!”

This unique and yet simple idea is one example of interdisciplinary collaboration on projects among students. See what the students are saying about the event:

“By being able to share our finished product with the students in another class that most likely did not have a strong background in sustainability, I felt that I was doing something meaningful and putting the things that I have learned to good practice because I was sharing that knowledge with others.”  -Melanie Martinez, Senior, Environmental Science Major, Global Sustainability Minor

“The group project was exciting because the information that my group mates and I put together could actually be passed onto students in middle or high school, and they would be able to learn about and implement sustainability in their lives by reducing their energy consumption.”  – Suryanshi Pandya, Junior, Educational Sciences Major, Global Sustainability Minor

“It’s amazing how our research can evolve into an interactive idea that can be used to teach the younger generations. By teaching the future teachers how to apply sustainable practices in an appropriate way into these children’s lives, we can arouse their curiosities and when they become older they will be aware of sustainable practices.” – Dasni Ahangama, Earth System Science Major, Global Sustainability Minor