Schools Use Summer Break As A Time For Intensive Sustainability Courses

We’re well into June, and — for the vast majority of college students and professors — that wonderful time known as “summer break.” However, for an increasing number of students and faculty across the nation, the months between the end of spring semester and the start of fall semester are being used to explore intensive, hands-on sustainability projects and courses.

The nature of these undertakings varies greatly. From on-campus fellowships designed to implement campus-greening initiatives, to study-abroad courses in developing countries, educators have seized upon the flexibility provided by the less-structured summer months. Below, we have highlighted seven creative examples from different colleges and universities.

On Farm

Stirling College is offering two 5-week on-farm practicums on sustainable agriculture practices. From their website:

“The Summer Sustainable Agriculture Program, part of Sterling’s Summer Semester, is an intensive, on-farm practicum experience in which students to learn to “think and make decisions like farmers”.  Supported by our highly diverse farm, students have the opportunity to learn vegetable crop production and management as well as livestock management.  Our draft horse team enables students to learn the principles of “live power” – draft horse management and also hands on experience with driving the team in our fields.  Students spend each day working on our farm and learning how to make daily and weekly management decisions.  The program is a mixture of on-farm experience as well as classroom coursework in organic vegetable production, livestock management systems, agriculture power, farmstead arts, and permaculture.”

Hampshire College, too, is giving students the opportunity to get their hands dirty with their brand new summer program, which combines farm work with traditional classroom experiences. From their website:

“Faculty from across Hampshire’s curriculum will teach in the program. Broad areas of study will include food science, soil science, sustainable agriculture, culinary arts, nutrition and public health, botany, animal behavior, land use history, and food and justice. While the focus of the intensive summer session is academic and students will spend part of each weekday in a classroom or laboratory, students will get up early to milk cows and tend to other farm animals, working alongside Hampshire’s farm manager Leslie Cox. They will also learn about growing vegetables as they plant, till, and cultivate alongside Nancy Hanson, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) manager.”

On Campus

Beloit College is bringing the sustainability projects closer to home by funding student work greening the campus and local community. From their website:

“The Beloit College Sustainability Fellows Program gives students the opportunity to contribute their expertise to a campus- or community-based sustainability project.  This eight-week summer program offers internships and applied research experiences for continuing Beloit College students to engage in sustainability-related activities on campus and in the local community.  Each student will work at one site under the mentorship of a faculty member.  In addition to working full-time at their placement sites, students will participate in a weekly Sustainability Seminar and a weekly community-based learning workshop.”

Similarly, Indiana University is using its summer sustainability interns to help develop strategic sustainability projects to support the school’s longterm campus greening goals. From their website:

‘The IUB Summer Internship Program in Sustainability will run from mid-May through mid-August. Funding is available to support fourteen new sustainability-related internships.  Five of these interns work on ongoing IUOS projects.  The other ten will join four continuing interns, working collaboratively with IUOS and the Campus Sustainability Advisory Board on projects designed to meet the strategic goals of our seven working groups.  Students will be expected to work approximately twenty hours per week over the course of the summer and participate in a 1-credit summer seminar in sustainability taught by Director of Sustainability Bill Brown.”

Study Abroad

Northwestern University, on the other hand, is sending students overseas to learn from German partner school University of Bonn and gain a global perspective on the issues. From their website:

“This program will focus on German energy policy and initiatives in renewable, sustainable, sources of energy—wind, solar, biomass, geothermal—and energy conservation in a European and global context. This 5-week, two quarter credit program offers a unique interdisciplinary curriculum and an introduction to renewable energy policy and development as a response to today’s climate and energy challenges. Students will gain a broad perspective on cutting-edge energy policies and global actors (i.e. major research institutes, UN agencies, German ministries, NGOs, international organizations and private corporations) through lectures, discussions, a collaborative energy project with other program participants, and excursions to meet with leaders and researchers in renewable energies. Short study trips to Brussels and Berlin are included in the program.”

Arizona State University is also sending its students abroad, but instead of a cultural exchange, they’ve chosen to find a place for students to gain hands-on experience facilitating sustainable development in a 3rd world country, Ghana. From their website:

“This is more than a trip – it’s also a service to others. GlobalResolve is a social entrepreneurship program at ASU that creates sustainable economic development in poor communities by developing technological solutions to energy, health and water problems and helping to initiate startup ventures around the solution. A large part of the process is understanding community needs and resources. This is a working research trip to identify opportunities to help rural and urban communities in Ghana, Africa, and to understand the culture, history, economy and community life. The group will visit several villages and other points of interest including a rain forest, former slave castle and a game preserve to understand needs and resources of communities in order to help design solutions.”

For Rising High Schoolers

Among other offerings, University of Florida has a rather unique summer program that’s designed especially for pre-college students. From their website:

“The UF Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership & Sustainability summer program gives 36 college-bound high school students the opportunity to live, work, eat, and play on the campus of the University of Florida for five weeks each summer while learning about entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, being inspired to solve social problems, and practicing sustainability. We empower students to become leaders and changemakers.”