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The Lifestyle Project Steven Earle Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, Canada Karin Kirk Carleton College and Empire State College, USA Paul Wright.

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Presentation on theme: "The Lifestyle Project Steven Earle Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, Canada Karin Kirk Carleton College and Empire State College, USA Paul Wright."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Lifestyle Project Steven Earle Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, Canada Karin Kirk Carleton College and Empire State College, USA Paul Wright Southampton Solent University, Southampton, UK

2 “ We are human because, at a very early stage in the history of the species, our ancestors discovered a way of preserving and disseminating the results of experience. ” Aldous Huxley, 1956, Knowledge & Understanding Part 1, Vedanta & the West, Vedanta Soc. of S. California “ But we understand only when, by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of words, conditioned reflexes, and social conventions, we establish direct, unmediated contact with experience. ” Learning through experience

3 We all know that we need to do something to decrease our impact on the environment, however most of us think that: our individual contribution to environmental degradation and climate change is small even if we do change, it won’t make much difference, because others won’t it would be difficult to change our habits and still maintain our lifestyles

4 In the Lifestyle Project* students are asked to break this deadlock  to discover that they can change the way they live. We challenge them to make some significant changes to their lifestyles, and to keep a journal describing how well they met their targets and how they and those around them were affected by the changes. *Kirk, K and Thomas, J, 2003, The Lifestyle Project, J. of Geoscience Education, V.,51, p. 496-99

5 Students are asked to do the following: electricity turn off lights and appliances when they aren’t needed heating dress warmly and turn down the heat water use use water efficiently: shorter showers, less laundry, less toilet flushing waste create no landfill waste and recycle whatever is possible transportation ditch the car and walk, bike, bus, or carpool diet avoid resource-intensive foods and foods that have been shipped a long way

6 The project lasts for 3 weeks, and becomes more stringent each week. Students write about their experience in a journal, and submit their journal for instructor- feedback at the end of each week.

7 The Lifestyle Project at: Empire State College: The project is used in a distance learning course in Geology and the Environment. The students are typically adults with jobs and families, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Southampton Solent University: The project is used part way through a first- level undergraduate unit in Global Environmental Issues. It ties in with future units looking at community involvement in environmental issues, and sustainable development Malaspina University-College: The project is used in two courses with the theme of Energy and the Environment, one a face-to-face course for future teachers, the other an on-line course open to all students.

8 Malaspina Malaspina University-College Participation in the project is voluntary. The alternative is a term paper (Approximately 90% of students take part!) The project can be started at any time within the 13-week term

9 The most popular topic choices are water and diet, followed by electricity and waste. Since relatively few choose to give up the use of their car, we have now made the transportation topic mandatory for all students who drive to campus. We ask them to reduce their driving by at least 30% in week 1, 40% in week 2 and 50% in week 3.

10 We’ve also asked students choosing the diet option to make a concerted effort to restrict themselves to locally-produced foods.

11 “It was fun, trying and eye-opening. An experience that I will take with me for many, many years and incorporate into my teaching in the future.” “… I am amazed how fast it has gone … I have been able to influence my landlord, family, friends and most importantly myself.” “I really like walking home. I feel better after I do it.” “I am now used to all the free time in the mornings that I save from not doing my hair; this I thought I could never change!” Student comments

12 End of term survey on the lifestyle project: 31/34 said that it increased their awareness of the environment 34/34 thought that it was a useful education experience 32/34 said that they would consider adapting this project to their own classrooms

13 Southampton Participation is required of all students There is no official assessment, but there is a formative reflective writing exercise As this is only part of a unit, the exercise is used for one week only, early in the unit, to introduce issue of personal responsibility

14 Many of our students are local, or rent locally, therefore, driving to the university is rare. Most chose the energy and water saving options, with some claiming they recycle already. No one took the diet option!

15 What the students said “It was more difficult than we thought.” “In a shared house, getting others to allow you to turn thermostats down is difficult.” “I managed to have shorter showers for three days, then I kind of forgot.”

16 Empire State College The project is offered as one of two options in the final portion of the course. (The other option is a research paper about conservation, using the same topics as the project.) Typically about 2/3 of the students elect to do the project. Project begins with the ecological footprint quiz ( and a series of energy calculations so that students can gain an awareness of how their actions add

17 The project runs for three weeks. Journals are submitted electronically at the end of each week. Instructor comments are added to the journal and they are returned electronically within a few days. Students use a discussion board to share suggestions and anecdotes from the project. The instructor posts her project journals to the discussion board, which always seems to generate student interest.

18 Because many of these students are older, and have households to run, the impact of the lifestyle project is very different than it is for young students living on campus. The changes are more difficult because they may need to convince their spouse or children to cooperate. Many are holding down a full-time job while doing the project. On the other hand, the project may affect these students more profoundly because it impacts their entire household.

19 Examples of outcomes: Trying to convince teenage kids to eat vegetables and take shorter showers Setting up carpooling with co-workers Convincing spouse to stop letting the water run when he does the dishes! Bringing lunch or coffee to work in reusable containers Encouraging the boss to allow recycling bins at work Setting up a compost pile Rethinking the grocery shopping experience (packaging, processing, imported foods, meat) Setting foot in a health food store

20 Examples of pedagogic outcomes: Creates a closer community in a distance learning environment Creates teamwork among students Allows for a personal connection between instructor and students Ends the course on a practical note that they can relate to their “real lives”

21 Summary of outcomes for students:  discovering that ‘talk is cheap’ and that action is far more challenging  a shift in awareness—recognizing the need to think about their environmental impact before they act.  realizing that lifestyle changes have time and convenience costs, but that some changes can save both time and money, and improve quality of life  becoming aware that small changes early in the project are easy, but substantial changes, made towards the end, can be more difficult  most students welcome the break from yet another term paper

22  the Lifestyle Project created a strong sense of community and teamwork in an on-line course (the same can be seen in a face- to-face course)  the “take-home” nature of the Lifestyle Project means that its effects commonly extend into the community, to family, friends and beyond  we discovered that the reflective (and especially reflective writing) capabilities of our students were poorer than we thought, and that more training is necessary here  student feedback supports the concept that learning through experience is more effective than many other forms of learning, Other outcomes:


24 Thank you For more information: November 2007 issue of Geotimes

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