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Kanawha workshop

Kanawha Project workshop participants head out for a tree tour on the Ridges. The campus is viewed as a learning laboratory for faculty and students.

Photographer: Joe Edmonds

Kanawha workshop

Jean Andrews educates faculty and students on the trees of the Ridges, their history and medicinal use.

Photographer: Joe Edmonds

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Workshop kicks off environmental discourse through Kanawha Project

Undergraduate scholars join OHIO faculty in program's third cohort

Twenty-eight Ohio University faculty and students kicked off a year’s worth of sustainability discourse this past week through a Kanawha Project workshop.

Attendees of the “Place-Based Sustainability Discourse Workshop” gathered from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Dec. 10 to learn about sustainability challenges and initiatives on the local, regional and global levels. The goal, according to Nancy Manring, principal investigator for the Kanawha Project, was to initiate discussion of what sustainability means to the community.

In her sustainability overview, Manring stressed that often there are no second chances in environmental policy, particularly as it relates to deforestation and mountaintop removal in Appalachia.

“Environmental issues often get talked about the same way we talk about other public issues… But they’re different in the sense that much of what we do to the environment has irreversible consequences for all time,” she said.

Other topics presented by Ohio University faculty included:

  • Background on the Kanawha Project
  • A sense of place
  • The region’s relationships with energy
  • OHIO’s sustainability initiatives
  • Place-based sustainability literacy

This year’s Kanawha Project cohort included faculty from five of OHIO’s six campuses. Faculty participants will take part in monthly learning communities through May to discuss the place-based meaning of sustainability for Ohio University. At the end of the project, faculty participants will revise one syllabus to incorporate environmental sustainability themes.

For the first time, the program also involves seven undergraduate scholars, with the aim of fostering research in the area of sustainability literacy.

“These are students that are already doing research, and many are already involved in sustainability initiatives,” Manring explained. “Their role is to be active partners in this dialogue.”

Students will participate in documenting and analyzing dialogue at the Kanawha Project’s monthly learning communities. Manring said the research will contribute to the university-wide sustainability planning being carried out by the President’s Advisory Council for Sustainability Planning.

To date, more than 40 faculty members have participated in the Kanawha Project, and more than 30 syllabi have been revised.

This number does not take into account several spin-off programs that are in effect at OHIO’s regional campuses under the direction of Kanawha Project graduates, said Kanawha Project Coordinator Loraine McCosker.  

As an example, McCosker points to a new sustainable garden project on the Lancaster Campus. Tended by students and faculty, the garden supplies food to the local food pantry, while also providing hands-on service learning opportunities related to course themes.

According to McCosker, the program is a prime example of how the Kanawha Project supports place-based learning to explore the many interdisciplinary concepts that are related to environmental sustainability.

For more information on the Kanawha Project, contact Loraine McCosker at mccosker@ohio.edu.