Applying sustainability into curriculum

David Spataro, a political science professor at BC, screened the film “This Changes Everything” to students to bring awareness of his upcoming interdisciplinary studies course. Spataro said he feels prepared to teach the course after being active in political movements and teaching classes at BC. Spataro said that he’s given chapters of the book “This Changes Everything” as assigned readings to students before. “A lot of issues I teach have to do with political power,” said Spataro.

Spataro explained that the decision to teach the class came from his relationship with BJ Unti, an economics instructor at BC. The interdisciplinary studies program gave them the opportunity to teach something new. Spataro feels that a class with only five credits limits the depth to which topics can be discussed, while a 10-credit class allows students to interact with instructors more, “creating a dynamic learning community.”

David Spataro gives an overview of his upcoming class.
David Spataro gives an overview of his upcoming class.

Beyond personal interest, the class is a contribution to sustainability efforts at BC. Spataro has proposed an “eco-scholars” program, an independent study course that would take students to locations around the Puget Sound. Students would get the opportunity to learn about local environmental struggles and impacts and “bring that knowledge back to the campus,” said Spataro.
Unti says he’s excited about working with Spataro on their upcoming course. According to Unti, his economics classes are about understanding links between economic and political systems. He aims to instruct students about what’s going on, and go beyond critique.

Kody Sherman took macroeconomics with Unti and said it was “life changing.” Sherman said that Unti would show debates and have the class discuss the content, instead of just accepting what propaganda was shown on television.

What Sherman took away from the documentary was the disconnect between the citizens and authority. “I thought it was gross how government organizations treated people,” said Sherman.
Sherman said that when it comes to education and employment, there are sometimes conflicts between doing the responsible thing and the right thing. He said that if he takes the course he hopes to learn about actionable steps he can take to make a difference.

Kent Short teaches environmental science at BC, including a course on environmental climate change. Climate change and global warming are discussed in all his classes and he said that a lot changes from year to year as textbooks are updated often. He said the curriculum has to change as well to keep pace.

Short believes that these climate changes aren’t projected for the distant future and will happen in most students’ lifetimes. “This is not something you need to wait to see.”

“We’re fortunate in this part of the country,” said Short. “We are somewhat protected.” Short explained that Washington’s location near the ocean helps moderate the climate but there are already major changes going on around the world.

Short’s courses mainly deal with the environmental aspects of climate change but he also teaches about sustainability.

Economics and business classes available at BC also deal with the topic of sustainability as it applies in each course. Short wants classes across multiple disciplines to touch on sustainability.
“In today’s world, all of us need to be aware of the limits of Earth’s resources,” said Short. “It’s really important that students leave BC with sustainability principles.” He believes that students should be exposed to the information now so they can prepare for the future.