Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development

To The Instructor

Welcome to the second part of the journey toward helping your students build a more sustainable future. You have laid the foundation, now let’s take them deeper into the issues.

In Part 1, students learned to recognize the wide range of social, economic, and environmental sustainability problems in Africa and began to discover how much these problems impact them. Part 2 explores each of the twenty-five issues and presents examples of strategies that can be used to address them. The Part 3 Case Study will provide an examination of a number of issues integrated in a single sustainability strategy. In this way, when the students build their community application projects in Part 4, they will be combining their issue knowledge learned here in Part 2 with the strategy building skills they have developed both here and in Part 3.

Issue Modules
Each of the twenty-five issues presented in Part 2 is organized within an individual Issue Module. The Modules are the basic building blocks of Part 2. We recommend that each Module be the subject of a separate class. For students who are already very knowledgeable about some of the Part 2 issues, readings on those issues can be omitted, allowing more time to be spent examining the Sustainability Strategies and other issues.

Issue Blocks
Issue Modules are grouped into Issue Blocks. We suggest that Issue Blocks be taught in the order in which they are provided. Each Block is equally important and together they provide a solid foundation of social, economic, and environmental sustainability issue literacy.

We believe that there is logic in beginning with more tangible environmental issues and following those with increasingly intangible social and economic issues. This allows students to develop their analytical and critical thinking skills throughout the course. This approach is supported by the Discussion Questions for each Issue Block that asks students to integrate information they learned from earlier Issue Blocks.

However, if your area of expertise or the issues of most immediate interest or familiarity for your students makes another sequence more effective, the Blocks can be used in another order. In either scenario, Block 4 – Economics of Ecosystems should follow after Block 1 – Ecosystems.

Module Resources

The Core Readings for each Issue Module typically average about ten pages. Suggested Core Readings and Supplemental Readings are listed in recommended order. Supplemental Readings are ordered by relevance and readability. Each Reading in the list has a very short summary of what it contains to assist you in your lesson planning.

Students review the materials you assign before the class and should be prepared to discuss the materials during class. The decision on what materials to require your students to read is yours. We recommend that the Core Readings be assigned for all students. It may be useful to assign various Sustainability Strategies and Supplemental Readings to different students to stimulate in-class discussion.

Assignment Questions
The Assignment Questions are designed to be completed outside of class. The answers to these questions are based entirely on the Core Readings. Answers to the questions are provided by module in the To the Instructor manual.

If Assignment Questions are assigned as written homework, it is recommended that you collect the students’ answers before other in-class activities begin. You may or may not choose to grade them, either regularly or periodically.

Sustainability Strategies
Sustainability Strategies are reports on real approaches being used to solve real sustainability problems in Africa. There are almost one hundred Sustainability Strategies included in Part 2.

The Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheet can be found in the Supplemental Materials section. It will be the students’ tool for analyzing and critiquing the effectiveness of these Sustainability Strategies. Analyzing the strategies using these sheets is a major synthesizing and application activity in which they will learn to consider how issues are interrelated in real life and how they can apply these strategies in their communities.

Sustainability Strategies are intended to give students examples of how sustainability problems can and are being tackled. They document approaches that can be replicated in the students’ own communities. As often as possible, the strategies presented are intended to align with key issue concepts for the module.

Prior to the class on each issue, one student should be assigned to present each Sustainability Strategy that you want the students to analyze during the class. It is recommended that the student’s presentation be a graded activity.

Presenting a Sustainability Strategy requires a student to read the selected strategy, identify the sustainability issues involved in the strategy, evaluate the social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits, and think through how the strategy could be implemented locally.

The Sustainability Strategies provided vary in length, depth, and quality. That is intentional. They have been taken from various sources so that students see not only a variety of strategies, but also the different ways that they are reported and summarized. The student does not control the quality of the Sustainability Strategy document he or she presents. The student should be graded based on the clarity of presentation—that is, how easily the other students are able to understand and analyze the strategy presented.

During their classmate’s presentation, the remaining students in the class should fill out a Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheet. The presenter should not direct students on exactly how to fill out the analysis sheet, but should instead provide the appropriate information from the case study, and respond to questions from their classmates as though they were advocating that the community replicate this strategy locally.

Another way to use the Sustainability Strategy Analysis Sheet in Part 2 is to have the students use the sheet to design their own solution to the problem just presented. Students can also be asked to do both—diagram the strategy as presented AND diagram how they would have approached the problem. The students can then discuss the advantages and disadvantages of differing approaches. It may be best to wait until students have developed their facility for diagramming strategies as presented before asking that they diagram their own approaches.

These repeated Sustainability Strategy Analysis Sheet activities can be a graded activity and provide the opportunity for a “quiz” level activity for each Part 2 class. These activities will develop students’ ability to quickly and critically analyze actual or proposed approaches to sustainability problems.

These activities will also develop their skills for designing their own strategies, which is their major project assignment in Part 4. Students will use the Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheet to outline the Sustainability Strategy they propose for their Part 4 project. Students should be reminded that the Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheet provides the format for their Part 4 proposal.

You should advise them about when their Part 4 project proposals are due. We suggest that they be turned in not later than the sixth week of the course and not until after at least two Issue Blocks have been completed. This will give them the opportunity to develop some skill in using the sheet and to have learned about a diversity of issues.

Pre-class preparation

Part 2 is designed for twenty-five hours of class time. Since this allows only one class hour for each issue, and there is a substantial amount of material to cover on each issue, student preparation before each class is critical.

Students should come to class prepared to discuss the readings you have assigned, and have answered any assignment questions you have selected for them to complete before class.

Local Material

We believe it is critical for students to see sustainability issues as relevant to their lives. Including local issue material and local sustainability strategies is an excellent way to make the connection between students and sustainability.

There are multiple ways to do this. Here are a few approaches you might try:

      • Add local material to the Readings and/or Sustainability Strategies. (This will increase the student workload outside of class.)
      • Substitute local material for the material already provided in the course. (This approach will increase understanding of local issues but will probably decrease the time available to examine issues and strategies at larger scales.)
      • Use the provided Readings and Sustainability Strategies for pre-class assignments and, instead of using the classroom time for discussion of those Readings and Sustainability Strategies, use the class time to present local issues and strategies.
      • Provide students with lists of other organizations in different countries and regions that can be useful in helping them explore the issues on their own.

Remember, we hope that one of the results of you and your peers using Sustainable Societies – Africa is that you will develop and insert local issue and strategy materials into your course. Through the Sustainable Societies – Africa project, those materials can be published and shared.

To facilitate that sharing, we ask that you organize your materials into Core and Supplemental Readings, taking into account the idea that total Core Readings should not exceed approximately ten pages. Sustainability Strategies should be developed using the Sustainability Strategy Analysis Sheet to guide your organization and content. Sustainability Strategies should be relatively short, not more than five pages, and will be very useful if the strategies provide the information asked for on the Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheet.

Typical Part 2 Class


      • Review Readings, Sustainability Strategies, and Assignment Questions and determine which you will assign
      • Determine if you will be including local material. If so, plan where and how you will incorporate it
      • Select presenters for Sustainability Strategies
      • Select Discussion Questions if you will be using them in class

In Class (Activities and their order may vary class-to-class)

      • Take questions on Readings
      • Review and/or discuss Assignment Questions
      • Conduct Sustainability Strategy presentations and follow-up questions
      • Present and discuss local issues and/or strategies
      • Use small groups for Discussion Questions

Site Visits
Another way to develop students’ understanding of the sustainability issues is by taking students to see sustainability problems and mitigation strategies in person on site visits to the natural and built environment. Such visits could take the place of issues classes and provide plenty of insights to stimulate discussions.

Working with the Students
In Part 1, we advised you to record each student’s personal sustainability issue concerns, perceptions, and attitudes. Here in Part 2 is the opportunity to return to them. A student’s personal interest in a particular issue expressed in Part 1 can be a powerful motivator for the student to take a leadership role during the group discussion sessions in class. You may ask the student to take the lead in the preparation for the discussion session or the presentation of Sustainability Strategies for their particular issue of interest. We recommend that you encourage the students to pose questions that they would like to see discussed in class.

Including students’ personal social, economic, and environmental values in the group discussions provides an opportunity to increase the level of interest and participation in the classroom. Discussing those values as well as conflicting points of view on the issues should be an integral part of the classroom discussion groups.

Including discussion of students’ personal values and points of view in the discussion groups also helps facilitate another desirable objective of the course—the development of students’ higher thinking processes such as identifying bias, inferring, relating, applying, and reflecting. Assignment Questions, Sustainability Strategy presentations, and the Discussion Questions can also be used for this objective.

Don’t limit the students in how they present or represent their questions or positions. Creative expression is a powerful tool for conveying a message. A creative presentation will also be remembered!

Development of students’ personal research skills begins in Part 2. Field visits and their own fact-finding and personal issue research will complement the readings and classroom activities and personalize their understanding of the issues. For example, for environmental issues such as water pollution or land degradation, you might have them collect specimens for or from university laboratories. For social and economic issues, you might have them collect field data in local communities. Such activities will be especially meaningful for them for issues with which they are not personally familiar.

Look for opportunities for them to do field studies and independent research. It is important for students from rural areas to experience urban issues and vice versa. As much as possible, students need to experience sustainability challenges that vary issue-to-issue and place-to-place.)

If you are using the CD or internet version of the course, recommend that they create their own course notebooks by using the Issue Notes Template found in the Supplemental Materials section to organize their personal research and issue information. Have them continue to improve their abilities to evaluate sustainability strategies using the Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheets and have the students save them. They will make the planning and design of the students’ own community application project strategies that much easier and more effective.