ASU programs help teachers develop next generation of engaged citizens

May 6, 2015

Two Arizona State University programs at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College have recently won multiple awards for their groundbreaking work impacting sustainability education and community engagement.

These programs take a proactive approach to ensure that future teachers are prepared not only in traditional subjects like reading and math, but also in areas that will help them become more aware and engaged citizens locally and globally. Download Full Image

The Sustainability Science Education project has been awarded ASU’s 2015 President's Award for Sustainability for the development and success of a new innovative course, SCN 400 Sustainability Science for Teachers. ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development also recognized the team with the 2015 Vision Award for their research and content.

University Service-Learning won the Arizona Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, considered the highest honor given for volunteerism in the state of Arizona. It has also been awarded ASU’s 2015 President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness, which recognizes superior accomplishments in identifying a community need or issue and developing mutually-supportive partnerships between ASU and Arizona communities to advance successful solutions.

Filling a need for sustainability science education for future teachers

Why do future teachers need to learn about how iPhones are produced, or examine the life cycle of jeans? Because the future of the planet just might depend on it. Not on the jeans or the iPhones, but on people who understand the implications of the creation and consumption of these products, and who are able to troubleshoot the complex challenges that arise as a result. 

Founded in 2011, the Sustainability Science Education Project’s mission focuses on the idea that attaining a sustainable future can be achieved one classroom at a time by informed and dedicated teachers. To carry out this mission, Lee Hartwell and his development and research team at ASU's Biodesign Institute produced a unique course, Sustainability Science for Teachers (SCN 400), one of the first programs in the United States to clearly and systematically address sustainability topics, problems, solutions, and divergent thinking within a teacher preparation program.

“Preservice teacher education represents a promising means to achieving large-scale social transformation,” said Lee Hartwell, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist and 2001 Nobel laureate.

The new course utilizes a hybrid of online and face-to-face classroom instruction, digital storytelling, and hands-on assignments to help students not only learn the concepts but also actively take part in sustainability practices in their own lives. As a result, preservice teachers come away with the skills and knowledge necessary to teach kindergarten through 8th grade students about the challenges of improving human health and well-being while reducing human exploitation of natural resources.

“We’re very conscious of the fact that teachers have the power to educate the next generation of scientifically literate, globally minded citizens. In order for them to do that, however, the teachers themselves require a more in-depth study of sustainability issues,” said Leanna Archambault, associate professor in Teachers College. “When we analyzed student learning, we saw significant growth in the depth and breadth of awareness of the many issues involved.”

The goals of the course were to engage preservice teachers as citizens so they could experience first-hand how individual efforts can make an impact, and provide them with ideas and tools to employ these concepts in their future classrooms.

“When people hear the term ‘sustainability’ they tend to think of things like recycling and reducing carbon emissions. But there’s actually so much more to it than that. Complex problems such as population growth, poverty, access to clean water, nutritious food, and energy – these challenging issues demand creative, adaptive learners who can develop and implement novel solutions,” said Annie Warren, program director and ASU doctoral student in the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes.

Sustainability Science for Teachers (SCN 400), is a program requirement for all elementary teacher candidates at ASU, and is now wrapping up its fourth academic year.

Kickstarting life-long community engagement

In 1993, Gay Brack was volunteering at the Salvation Army South Mountain Community Center to help ensure that children in the community were safe and productive after school.

“I began doing afterschool tutoring on a volunteer basis," Brack recalled. "The first week I had nine children; by the end of the second week I had 58, so I realized I had to bring in volunteers!”

To accommodate the enormous need for the program, Brack reached out to her colleagues within ASU’s English Department and began developing stand-alone service-learning courses in which students could teach children in the community based on what they were learning in their college courses. Since then the University Service-Learning (USL) program has expanded beyond tutoring to include a wide variety of service opportunities at any one of 160 community partners throughout the valley who provide assistance to traditionally underserved communities.

“USL classes immerse ASU students in the community and provides them with real-world experiences that build professional skills,” explained Deborah Ball, director of community engagement programs at Teachers College. “In addition to the community service component of the course, students engage in an in-depth study of civic engagement and community issues, working towards finding solutions to social injustices and critically analyzing how their experience in the community applies to their major and career goals.”

Since 1993, more than 12,000 ASU students have contributed over 1 million hours of service impacting the local community through USL courses. Last year alone, 735 students participated completing 57,390 hours of service. A few examples of the impact that individual students have had include:

• helping 25 students not only prepare and pass their GED exam but raising funds for the test fees

• teaching 25 diabetes awareness classes with low-income seniors

• helping to prepare tax documents for 148 low income families

• helping a student with disabilities to raise her grade in science from 40% to 76% in just a few weeks

• creating a video – in Spanish and English – and a social media campaign to encourage Phoenix citizens to properly recycle plastic bags in order to reduce the $1 million annual price tag the city pays to deal with the problem of incorrectly recycled plastic bags

Taking the USL 216 course is required for all ASU students in the teaching program except for Secondary Education. The class includes giving the students their own service-learning experience and learning how to teach using service-learning as a methodology.

Students serve between 70-100 hours over a 16 week period, allowing them to cultivate relationships with the organizations they work with as well as the individuals they serve.

A post-participation survey revealed that after participating in the program 93 percent of students planned on volunteering in the future, 82 percent felt that they have a responsibility to help with changes in social policy, and 91 percent felt that their actions can affect social change in the community.

Public service grads embrace a commitment to help others

May 6, 2015

ASU 2015 commencement banner

Five students exemplify a commitment to public service and innovative thinking, finding solutions for the challenges in our community. They join more than 850 students graduating from the College of Public Service and Community Solutions this spring. Courtney Carter Download Full Image

Courtney Carter, the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Outstanding graduate Courtney Carter made the transition from military to civilian life after eight years of service in the U.S. Navy.

He soon discovered his passion for learning how cities grow and function.

“I’m a creature of the city. I grew up in a very cosmopolitan and walkable city. Living in Phoenix and other cities, that interest only got deeper,” Carter said.

With a double major in urban planning and urban and metropolitan studies, Carter is delving into the problems facing his community.

Through the undergraduate research program, Carter is working on a project that looks at low-income housing in central Phoenix.

“We’ve surveyed and investigated some of the tools those families in those neighborhoods are using to overcome some of the nutritional challenges that they have,” Carter said.

Carter also interned with the University of Arizona’s cooperative with Maricopa County at PHX Renews, an initiative of Mayor Greg Stanton to transform vacant lots throughout Phoenix into community spaces.

Carter is a Spirit of Service Scholar, was involved in meetings leading up to the creation of the Public Service Academy, and is a veteran peer adviser for the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“It’s important that folks with military backgrounds have the opportunity to interact with and shadow and learn from citizens, because the needs and the expectations can be quite different,” Carter said.

Carter is also a council aide for Councilwoman Kate Gallego, where he’s working with the City of Phoenix to improve and expand Valley landscaping and community gardens.

“Whether you’re in public service or not, public servants impact your quality of life,” Carter said. “Decisions made by public servants impact how you navigate through and outside of the city.”

Stephanie Morse, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Stephanie Morse is a double major studying psychology and criminology and is a student in Barrett, The Honors College.

Morse is an intern with the Arizona Department of Corrections in Florence within the mental-health program. She assists staff members in their treatment of severely mentally ill inmates through psycho-education, group therapy and treatment planning.

“It’s definitely one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done. I really value that experience,” Morse said.

She was given the task of coordinating a mentor program for mentally ill inmates in which higher-functioning inmates assist lower-functioning ones.

“While this program is relatively new, we are beginning to see positive changes in the inmates who are being mentored as well as the inmates who are mentoring,” Morse said.

She looks forward to continuing her research in a master’s and doctoral program in criminology.

“What the faculty and students are doing is trying to look at it differently and ask new questions and try to find new answers,” Morse said. “I think when we start to reframe big issues like that, that’s when we start to make some positive changes and see other policies that might work.”

Milo Neild, the School of Community Resources and Development

Milo Neild never served in the military, but one of his main interests is helping those who did.

Neild works with his brother’s non-profit, Wounded Wodders, to aid the recovery of combat-wounded veterans.  

He also served in AmeriCorps and Public Allies, as well as taught transgender education for eight years before starting his degree in parks and recreation management at ASU.

Neild initially pursued a degree in computer programming but later switched to his major.

“Just wanting to be outside all the time really made me look for another major that better fit the things that I liked to do, the activities that I spent most of my time outside school doing,” Neild said.

Through his participation in the undergraduate research program with professor Megha Budruk, Neild earned a grant from the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance to conduct research on park-entry fees. The research will provide insight into park visitors’ level of acceptance of fees at three Maricopa County regional parks.

“It was never something that I would have considered doing. But starting to be able to do it was something I really enjoyed,” Neild said.

The research will explore the relationships between visitors’ willingness to pay, perceptions of fairness concerning fees, place attachment to the parks and attitudes toward fees.

“[Milo’s project] speaks very much to our college’s mission, our school’s mission, about doing research that is benefiting the community and that comes from the community,” Budruk said.

One of Neild’s philosophies is remembering to look at his situations in innovative ways.

“Even just getting others engaged is a way of being innovative because you’re taking on a whole new approach, a view, a skill set,” Neild said. “… In doing that, we come up with more solutions and engage more people.”

Fatemah Bernard, the School of Public Affairs

Fatemah Bernard set out to defy the odds against her.

“I had very difficult literacy issues growing up. I couldn’t read until I was in the third grade,” Bernard said. “... But really I’ve defied the odds, and I think that that’s the most important thing to do when you have the odds against you.”

Bernard said she overcame her biggest obstacle in college when she discovered her learning style.

“I had no idea all this time that I was an audio learner,” she said. “I didn’t know the steps I that I needed to take just to help myself along the way during my learning process, but ultimately my instructors helped me figure that out.”

Bernard served in the U.S. Air Force as a military police officer for six years before pursuing a degree in public policy at ASU.

“I wanted a challenge,” she said. “... Working in that public-servant role is an extreme challenge. There is a lot of sacrifice involved with it, but I just wanted to continue on that path and ultimately make something of myself.”

Among her accomplishments, she takes great pride in her work co-creating the nutrition curriculum for Refugee Focus, a program that provides a foundation for refugee women to take control of their health and the health of their families; and mentoring for New Pathways for Youth, which focuses on children who have been homeless or lived in a shelter.

Bernard has been accepted into the College of Public Service and Community Solutions graduate program for public policy, where she plans to pursue her interests of public education policy and municipal budgets.

Molly Gebler, the School of Social Work

Molly Gebler is a graduate student in the School of Social Work on the Tucson campus.

“I believe in the sense of community. That’s one of the reasons I love Tucson so much,” Gebler said.

Among her activities, she has served as the School of Social Work student council president.

“When I lead, I try to show my passion and enthusiasm because those are two things that people can feed off of and in turn get as equally excited,” Gebler said.

Gebler said she’s lucky to have met and made so many connections with the people in her experience at ASU. Through the child-welfare stipend program, Gebler was able to spend hands-on time seeing what she would do as a child-welfare worker.

Gebler has also served as a research assistant since 2012. Most recently, she has worked with ASU professor Lela Williams studying mother-baby attachment and bonding.

Gebler said every social worker has a grand idea to save the world,but that her idea of “macro-level change” must be worked through step-by-step.

“I’ve realized we only ever have control over our own actions,” Gebler said. “So if we can start with that, and if we all can just work on being really good people, I think that we can make that macro change.”

Written by Kennedy Munter

Media contact:

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions