August 19, 2020

Environmental Humanities in the (Second-Language) Classroom: Teaching Sustainability with a German Accent


My presentation shares ideas, approaches, and experiences related to my attempts to integrate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the physical as well as the digital classroom. Becoming discontent with some of our traditional curricula, I have explored teaching methods and materials that engage students in meaningful learning experiences that center language learning around theme-based, culture-driven environmental discourses. Moving to online teaching formats required new adjustments, both with respect to authentic materials and methodological underpinnings. Drawing on developments in the Environmental Humanities and working with a wide range of online materials—from learning tools developed by conservationist organizations to the Netflix series Dark to upcycling tips from the German National Geographic—I have designed activities, units, and courses that are holistic, informed by literacies pedagogy, and allow for immersed, process-oriented and project-based learning. While restructuring my learning contexts for online environments, I came across many lessons I intend to keep for the future, regardless of the format of instruction. These include lessons on how to create a more equitable, fair, and supportive classroom and how to define different pathways to success for my students. Although texts, topics, and terminology of my presentation happen to come primarily from the German language arena (intermediate and advanced courses), they translate well into different educational contexts and could be adopted for different levels of linguistic proficiency.

*Participants will learn ideas and impulses for integrating sustainability into the (second-language) classroom
*Participants will learn how to develop teaching frameworks that include environmental perspectives, practices, products
*Participants will learn how to link student learning outcomes to sustainability (combining lower-level and higher-level cognitive learning outcomes, leading students from "remember" and "understand" to action)
*Participants will learn how to reflect on humanities' contribution to environmental discourses in the classroom

Lisa GabbertDoris McGonagill

Associate Professor of German

Doris McGonagill received her PhD in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. She now holds a position as Associate Professor at USU where she teaches upper-division German literature and culture courses. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on the intersection between German literature, aesthetic theory, and memory theory in the 20th and 21st centuries. More recently, she has ventured into the fields of German environmental literature and ecocriticism. Her latest publication is a book chapter titled "Excavating Transatlantic Climates: An Archeology of Climate Discourse between Germany and the United States" co-authored with her Utah State colleague Lawrence Culver (History). The chapter is scheduled to appear in Climate Cultures in Europe and North America: New Formations of Environmental Knowledge and Action, edited by Thorsten Heimann et al. (Routledge 2022).