Florida Gulf Coast University

Teaching Real-Life Lessons in Sustainability

Corkscrew is a key field site for Florida Gulf Coast University's "Colloquium" course. Colloquium is a core requirement for all undergraduate students and focuses on global perspectives, sustainability, native Florida habitats and systems, environmental economics, urban development, watershed and critical conservation issues.

Florida Gulf Coast University Colloquium Teaching Real-Life Lessons in Sustainability

"The University Colloquium is an interdisciplinary environmental education course designed to explore the concept of sustainability as it relates to a variety of considerations and forces in southwest Florida. In particular, we will consider environmental, social, ethical, historical, scientific, economic, and political influences."

The course goals are:

  • to provide a sense of place and an understanding of the unique ecological features of the Southwest Florida environment
  • to assist in achieving the Florida Gulf Coast University learning goal of developing "an ecological perspective" and in teaching the related outcomes that the student will "..know the issues related to economic, social, and ecological sustainability, analyze and evaluate ecological issues locally and globally, participate in collaborative projects requiring awareness and/or analysis of ecological and environmental issues;"
  • to provide experiences to assist in moving toward achieving the eight other FGCU learning goals and their related outcomes (a list of the nine FGCU Student Learning Goals and Outcomes is attached);
  • to enable a working understanding of sustainability, of environmental education, and of ecological literacy.

Colloquium is a required course for all undergraduate students and is taught by faculty from all colleges at the University. Corkscrew Sanctuary is a key field trip site for the program and provides opportunities for students to complete required service learning hours by engaging them in land management, restoration, and science.

Initially, one hundred FGCU students participated in Colloquium annually. Today over 2500 FGCU students visit Corkscrew each year. Recently we addressed the issue of large groups and limited Corkscrew staff for guided tours. FGCU Professors and Student Naturalists now lead field trips, dividing classes to enable students to travel the boardwalk in small learning groups.

Paradoxically, the crowds of students were arriving at the Audubon Sanctuary in separate cars to discuss ecological sustainability. We still faced the challenge of transportation and how to reduce our environmental impact. After hosting Florida Gulf Coast University's (FGCU) Colloquium course at Corkscrew for over a decade, simple changes have triggered a significant shift toward sustainability of this established collaborative program.

"As of January 2009, buses transport entire Colloquium classes, reducing the carbon footprint, highway traffic, and parking requirements," said Annette Snapp, Colloquium coordinator. "Bus trips mean more teaching time with the students and serve as a lesson in sustainability." The students agree. "The bus was the best carpool," said student Richard Callahan. "I realized we often use individual vehicles out of convenience rather than necessity." Another student, Travis Wagner, added that "using the bus reinforces the principles of sustainability that are being taught in this course."


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