Blog Contributor: Erica Harper
Dr. Jessica Blythe is an assistant professor in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre who teaches courses to Minor in Environmental Sustainability (undergraduate) and Master of Sustainability (graduate) students who are keen to learn more about climate change, environmental policy, and how to achieve transformational change within our societies’ systems. To take on the challenge of engaging her students in a virtual world, Dr. Blythe has continued to implement experiential education into course work through the Fall 2020 semester.
Dr. Blythe has used social media to get ideas for assignments before, but this time she inspired others on Twitter with her creativity to further her students’ understanding of climate change adaptation. Dr. Blythe posted about an assignment related to climate change adaptation that she gave her students enrolled in the capstone course of the Minor of Sustainability program, Contemporary Environmental Issues (ENSU3P90). Her Twitter post explains that she asked her students to generate tools to create workshops that would help people find solutions for climate change adaptation and transformation using Rob Hopkins and Rob Shorter’s Imagination Sundial. Dr. Blythe’s Twitter post received attention online and even managed to reach both the creators of the Imagination Sundial who were impressed by her creativity and ability to implement their Imagination Sundial into her course work.
The Imagination Sundial acts as a design tool for rebuilding the imaginative capacity of people, organizations, or countries to help generate solutions for adapting to climate change. This tool resonated with Dr. Blythe because her research investigates how we can achieve transformational change in society and the Sundial is a great tool to help catalyze this type of change. Dr. Blythe approaches the ENSU390 course with the expectation that many of her students are finishing their degrees at Brock, and the course is therefore designed to help them become sustainability professionals or implement sustainability into their careers after graduation. Although her experiential assignments usually consist of working with real partners within the university, Dr. Blythe still wanted to provide her students with experiential learning opportunities in a virtual world. Using the Sundial, students had to explain who they would target for their climate adaptation workshop (e.g., farmers, residents, organizations, etc.), the purpose of their workshop such as what transformation they would like to walk participants through, and finally, students had to map out the logistics of their workshop.
Dr. Blythe emailed both Rob Hopkins and Rob Shorter to explain the assignment in more depth and provide some examples from the students in her class. They were inspired that she had been using their Imagination Sundial for experiential education during this challenging time and they thought it was novel to be using their tool at the undergraduate level. All in all, Dr. Blythe has demonstrated a great example of how to implement experiential education in a virtual world and has surely inspired many of her colleagues online to do the same.
To learn more about the Minor in Environmental Sustainability at Brock, please visit: https://brocku.ca/esrc/minor-in-sustainability/