EDO 510 – Systems and Sustainability

EDO 510-80 Spring 2019 – Systems and Sustainability

Instructor:  David I. Backer

Office: Wayne Hall 930

Office Hours: T: 2-4pm, W: 2-4pm, R: 12-1

Phone:  610-436-6945

E-mail: dbacker@wcupa.edu        

Class Location/Time: Wednesdays 4:25-7:10pm Mitchell 103

Catalog Description:  Examination of how systems thinking applies to learning for sustainability in schools and other institutions.  Topics include curriculum, grounds, facilities, and missions.

Overview:  This course is designed to address the Why and How of making educational institutions more sustainable.

Course Objective(s)  Among the objectives of this course are to

  1. Help you establish supportive relationships for organizing and carrying out projects related to environmental and sustainability education.
  2. Take concrete steps to improve your school’s, home’s, or community’s environmental and sustainability record by carrying out a Campaign Proposal Project
  3. Inspire an ongoing interest in sustainability with field studies, speakers, and authentic learning opportunities.
  4. Establish a network of people in the region who are interested in green schools.
  5. Gain an in-depth understanding of the research literature related to school greening

Essential questions: How can people in/around schools be climate activists? What is an institution in society and how does it change? What happens when activism meets actually existing institutions? How can we organize to change a social system within or among educational institutions to fight climate change?

WCU Public Safety Emergency #:  610-436-3311

ADA Statement: “If you have a disability that requires accommodations under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), please present your letter of accommodations and meet with me as soon as possible so that I can support your success in an informed manner. If you would like to know more about West Chester University’s services for students with disabilities, please contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities at ext. 3217.”

Course Readings

There are no required textbooks for the class. All course readings will be available here on the syllabus website  (or via email).

Course Schedule

    Date                                        Course material                  Due

1/23 WATCH: Democracy Now interview with Greta Thuneberg

Syllabus, introduction, discussion of Greta Thuneberg Interview (practice discussion question)

Part 1. The Big Picture: Current Numbers and Movements

READ: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Chapter 1: Overview

WATCH: The Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal


For a Select Committee on the Green New Deal (Ocasio-Cortez)

Green New Deal Report (Data for Progress)

Precis 1

Submit all assignments to the Course Google Drive folder.


Part 2. Foundations of Sustainability, Education, and Change

READ: “The Critical Social Theory of Sustainability” by Tina Lynn Evans. PDF:cst of sustainability Precis 2
READ: Education for Sustainability Benchmarks, pp. 1-37. PDF: efs-benchmarks-1.1a[1]
Precis 3

Part 3. 

Democratic curriculum: Present your articles and vote! Thinking about the major issues we’ve gone over thus far in the course, find 2-3 academic articles, book chapters, or texts (peer-reviewed) that are relevant to the course material and that interest you. We’ll vote on them together and decide the next few weeks of readings.
2/27 Democratic curriculum 1 Precis 5
3/6 Democratic curriculum 2 Precis 6

Midterm grade proposal survey


Part 4. Sustainability in Schools in Context

Democratic curriculum 3 Precis 8
3/27 Climate Change Activism in Our Contemporary Contexts. Skype call with Dr. Daniel Aldana Cohen. 

READ: Green New Deal and Cohen’s Popular Pieces
Prepare questions for how Cohen’s thinking applies to school sustainability challenges.

Part 5. Grounds, Facilities, and Mission of Institutions: WCU

READ: West Chester University’s Climate Action Plan, p. 1-25.

Visit from Brad Flamm

WATCH: Office of Sustainability Video Tour
LOOK: WCU Sustainability Story Map

Precis 9
4/10 READ: West Chester University’s Climate Action Plan, p. 25-52.

(Visit by Dr. Jessica Schedlbauer)
Precis 10
4/17 Visit by Dr. Paul Morgan Precis 11
4/24 School Asset Maps Maps the ground, facilities, and mission of your institution in preparation for your campaign proposal.
5/1 Presentations Final Grade Proposal SurveyFinal Campaign Proposal Due



6 Précis: Rigorous summary of readings (400 words) + discussion question (100 words)

Education for Sustainability Campaign Proposal + Presentation:  For this project, you will work individually on a topic area of interest, developing a campaign proposal using the Midwest Academy model of campaign development.  You will be expected to have a page for each stage of the campaign process: Goals, Organizational Considerations, Constituents Allies and Opponents, Targets, and Tactics.

Presentation:  Prepare and deliver a 20-minute presentation that showcases your project.   


I will send out a grade proposal survey at the midpoint and end of the semester. Students will take the measure of their own learning with this survey and propose a grade, with which I will agree or disagree.

While no given assignment will be worth any amount in particular, the percentages below are suggestions to help you think about self-evaluation as part of this process.

Précis                                                   40%
1 Campaign Proposal                          25%
1 Campaign proposal presentation 25%
Participation                                         10%

Course Attendance Policy

I think of attendance as fluid. I only ask that if you’re going to be absent please let me know via email either well before or just before class begins.


Rarely, students need incompletes for extraordinary reasons.  I will not grant an incomplete at the end of the semester without prior discussion with the student and a firm deadline the student proposes for completing the work.  

Food and Housing Security

When students face challenges securing food and/or housing, it can be difficult to learn. If you are in this situation, please contact the Dean of Students. If you feel comfortable, please also let me know, and I will do what I can to connect you with appropriate resources. Our campus offers various services and supports for students; know that you are not alone in dealing with these issues.


Many students have care responsibilities for a child in their life, whether as a parent, an older sibling, cousin, etc. If your childcare needs ever come into conflict with the course schedule, please don’t feel as though you need to miss class. I understand that sometimes plans fall through. If this happens, you are welcome to bring a child to class with you. I simply ask that you bring materials to keep them busy (e.g., a book, drawing materials, etc.), and remain mindful of your classmates. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Common West Chester Syllabus elements:


All students have a right to expect that the University will reasonably accommodate their religious observances, practices and beliefs.  In accordance with this policy, I expect you to notify me in writing if you intend to be absent for a class or announced examination.


It is the responsibility of each student to adhere to the university’s standards for academic integrity. Violations of academic integrity include any act that violates the rights of another student in academic work, that involves misrepresentation of your own work, or that disrupts the instruction of the course. Other violations include (but are not limited to): cheating on assignments or examinations; plagiarizing, which means copying any part of another’s work and/or using ideas of another and presenting them as one’s own without giving proper credit to the source; selling, purchasing, or exchanging of term papers; falsifying of information; and using your own work from one class to fulfill the assignment for another class without significant modification. Proof of academic misconduct can result in the automatic failure and removal from this course. For questions regarding Academic Integrity, the No-Grade Policy, Sexual Harassment, or the Student Code of Conduct, students are encouraged to refer to the Department Graduate Handbook, the Graduate Catalog, the Ram’s Eye View, and the University website at http://www.wcupa.edu.

Academic Dishonesty:  Academic dishonesty is prohibited at this University and will not be tolerated in this class.  It is a serious offense because it diminishes the quality of scholarship, makes accurate evaluation of student progress impossible, and defrauds those who must ultimately depend upon the knowledge and integrity or the institution, its students and faculty.  Students should review the academic dishonesty policy stated in the University catalog.


If you have a disability that requires accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please present your letter of accommodations and meet with me as soon as possible so that I can support your success in an informed manner. Accommodations cannot be granted retroactively. If you would like to know more about West Chester University’s Services for Students with Disabilities (OSSD), please visit them at 223 Lawrence Center. The OSSD hours of Operation are Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Their phone number is 610-436-2564, their fax number is 610-436-2600, their email address is ossd@wcupa.edu, and their website is at http://www.wcupa.edu/ussss/ossd.


West Chester University and its faculty are committed to assuring a safe and productive educational environment for all students. In order to meet this commitment and to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and guidance from the Office for Civil Rights, the University requires faculty members to report incidents of sexual violence shared by students to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, Ms. Lynn Klingensmith. The only exceptions to the faculty member’s reporting obligation are when incidents of sexual violence are communicated by a student during a classroom discussion, in a writing assignment for a class, or as part of a University-approved research project. Faculty members are obligated to report sexual violence or any other abuse of a student who was, or is, a child (a person under 18 years of age) when the abuse allegedly occurred to the person designated in the University protection of minors policy.  Information regarding the reporting of sexual violence and the resources that are available to victims of sexual violence is set forth at the webpage for the Office of Social Equity at http://www.wcupa.edu/_admin/social.equity/.


All students are encouraged to sign up for the University’s free WCU ALERT service, which delivers official WCU emergency text messages directly to your cell phone.  For more information, visit http://www.wcupa.edu/wcualert. To report an emergency, call the Department of Public Safety at 610-436-3311.


It is expected that faculty, staff, and students activate and maintain regular access to University provided e-mail accounts. Official university communications, including those from your instructor, will be sent through your university e-mail account. You are responsible for accessing that mail to be sure to obtain official University communications. Failure to access will not exempt individuals from the responsibilities associated with this course.


I am a member of APSCUF, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. We uphold the highest standards of teaching, scholarly inquiry, and service. We are an organization that is committed to promoting excellence in all that we do to ensure that our students receive the best education. Ask me for more information on what APSCUF does for students, and see http://www.apscuf.org or http://www.facebook.com/APSCUF.