Environmental Literacy and Sustainability InitiativeEnvironmental Literacy & Sustainability Initiative


Our projects to date include the development of working models that implement the vision of our core strategy. Our projects are highly interdisciplinary and have helped to create a sense of community among faculty, staff and students.  We hope that our projects serve as a source of inspiration and ideas for other universities. 

Current Projects

Sustainability Task Force – Members of ELSI were among those contributing to a 2006 letter writing campaign from faculty, staff and students to the Indiana University Provost requesting that a task force on sustainability be appointed.  The Indiana University Vice President for Administration appointed the task force in February of 2007 and members of ELSI are serving on the task force and its many working groups, which include food, education, land use, green buildings, and transportation among others.  The university has provided funds to the task force for a summer internship program, and the task force will use research and data collected by the summer interns in drafting a long-term sustainability plan for Indiana University, due in fall 2007.

Food for Thought - The Food for Thought project is a collaboration between ELSI and Indiana University’s Human Biology Program (HUBI). The project was funded by an Indiana University Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) Leadership Award provided by the Office of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculties in 2006.  The Food for Thought project is developing and testing a novel model of multi-course and multi-partner service-learning as a means of increasing student interdisciplinary learning, intellectual and personal development and civic engagement. The project focuses on food literacy as a key component of environmental literacy that cuts across multiple social, economic and environmental issues at local to global scales.  During the fall 2006 semester, service-learning courses from four disciplines (Biology; Risk Management; Health, Physical Education and Recreation; and Fine Arts) collaborated on food-related projects for three community partners (Students Producing Organics Under the Sun (SPROUTS), Hilltop Garden and Nature Center and Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard). Project personnel are currently analyzing the large amount of data generated over the semester to determine the effectiveness of this particular approach for improving environmental literacy and civic engagement in university students.

Curriculum Development for the Human Biology Program – A team of ELSI faculty were asked to bring the ELSI perspective and its signature service-learning pedagogy to bear on developing the curriculum in Human Environment and Ecology for the new Indiana University Human Biology Program (HUBI). Drawing from ELSI’s work, the team developed a mission statement, learning goals and competencies, lists of recommended courses, unique learning opportunities and expectations and initial ideas for assessment of learning through Human Biology’s electronic portfolio system.  The team’s report can be accessed here.

Edited Volume - ELSI members are collaborating with the director of Indiana University’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Program (SOTL) on an edited volume of proceedings from the 2002 Environmental Literacy Seminar Series (see below).  The volume will include essays contributed by the seminar speakers and conclusions drawn from group discussion.

Past Projects

Curriculum Development – ELSI petitioned the Indiana University Faculty Council (BFC) to incorporate environmental literacy and sustainability into the revised undergraduate General Education requirements that the BFC were considering.  The text of the letter can be found here.  While ELSI’s recommendations were not adopted, the effort served to raise awareness about environmental literacy and sustainability among the BFC and helped to build momentum for the Sustainability Task Force letter writing campaign (see above).

Fostering Environmental Literacy Seminar Series - In 2002, the Environmental Literacy Working Group of the Council for Environmental Stewardship, later to become ELSI, obtained funding to hold an interdisciplinary faculty seminar series on promoting campus wide environmental literacy (see History for more details).  The seminar was held in fall of 2003, featuring more than 15 presenters and attracting over 20 faculty plus a number of staff and students across 17 disciplines.  The seminar ultimately led to the development of our Learning Goals and Core Strategy for fostering environmental literacy as a basic competency campus wide. The schedule (Word .doc file) and minutes (.zip archive) from this seminar series are available to download.

Prairie in the Planters – The Council for Environmental Stewardship’s Green Landscaping Working Group worked with students and a variety of campus and community groups to create the “Prairie in the Planters” project in 2002. Led by a faculty member from Biology, the project involved the use of native plants to naturalize several large planters in a high-traffic region of the campus and included permanent signage at the planter site and pamphlets describing how to use native plants and environmentally friendly landscaping practices.  This is an excellent example of using the physical campus as a pedagogical tool, and in this case faculty co-curricular teaching needs were supported by campus landscaping units, graduate students, and members of the community.  After flourishing for three years, the Prairie in the Planters was temporarily dismantled for structural repairs, but as of 2007 the Indiana University Biology Club is working with an ELSI and Biology faculty member and campus landscaping units to reinstall and expand the plantings. (Click here to see the Biology Club’s proposal for the reinstallation).