Associate Professor of Environmental and Plant Biology Art Trese speaks to SOCHE faculty on teaching students about sustainable agriculture and sustainable food resources.

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OHIO trains SOCHE on sustainability literacy

Select Ohio University faculty and staff recently offered training in environmental and sustainability literacy to members of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE). Twenty one participants from 11 institutions of higher education attended the two-and-a-half day workshop, held June 13-15 on OHIO's Athens campus.

Funded by the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education, the event was part of Ohio University's ongoing Kanawha Environmental Education Project (KEEP). Developed in 2007 by Ohio University’s Environmental Studies Program, KEEP utilizes workshops, small group discussions, readings and hands-on activities to expose faculty participants to methods for infusing their existing courses with environmental and sustainability themes.

“The workshop allowed faculty from various institutions in Ohio to come together and discuss a methodology of bringing environmental sustainability concepts to undergraduate students," said project coordinator Loraine McCosker. "As a result, we are developing an educators’ network on environmental sustainability within Ohio. It is a thrilling opportunity.”

Highlights of the SOCHE Integrating Environmental Sustainability Themes workshop included a tour of the Ridges, which visited the university's composting facilities and Ecohouse. Led by Director of Sustainability Sonia Marcus, the tour culminated with a discussion of sustainability initiatives in higher education.

John Winnenberg of the Little Cities of Black Diamonds provided an overview of the history of coal extraction in the region. Additional field experiences included kayaking on Dow Lake with Outdoor Pursuits and tours of sustainable agriculture sites Green Edge Gardens and OHIO's Environmental Plant Biology Gardens, which is run by Associate Professor of Environmental and Plant Biology Art Trese.

McCosker said undergraduate students in numerous disciplines will benefit from this project, experiencing an educational approach that will raise levels of sustainability literacy across disciplines at universities across Ohio.

“(The workshop was) truly inspiring. I have ideas not only for things to do in my courses but also in my community," said Midge Hall, a professor of chemistry at Clark State Community College. "I needed a project I could be proud of. (This was) the jolt I needed to start something important.”

The KEEP project was funded through an 1804 grant and NSF funding during its first year. During its second and third year, the project has been funded through the Ohio Environmental Education Fund through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.