June 2014, Volume 18, Number 2

Academics


Connecting the Dots

Finding new ways to look at information can offer surprising insights. With this goal in mind, MDC’s Earth Ethics Institute is helping students begin to unravel the mysteries of life through its innovative Global Sustainability and Earth Literacy Studies (GSELS) Learning Network.

As a result of this endeavor, students in Dr. Victoria Castells’ Intro to Chemistry now are learning much more than how many protons, neutrons and electrons each element has.

“From the beginning of the semester, as they work with the Periodic Table, I have them read The Earth Charter,” said Castells, who teaches at Hialeah Campus. “They start understanding that chemistry is everywhere around us. Nitrogen and phosphorus added to make lawns green end up in rivers and oceans, causing algae blooms, which is an effect that eventually kills the fish we eat. When students learn this, they want to take action.”

It All Clicks

Seeing the light bulb of interconnections turn on for students with diverse career paths is not unique to Castells. In Dr. Carol Petrozella’s nursing courses at Medical Campus, Professor Carola Pedreschi’s Honors College psychology classes at InterAmerican Campus, Dr. Larry Frolich’s anatomy labs at Wolfson, and scores of disciplines at MDC’s other campuses, students are discovering links between what before seemed to be disparate subjects.

GSELS classes acknowledge the interdependence of the economic, political, social, cultural and environmental aspects of life. At the same time, they focus on 20 objectives designed to meet Miami Dade College’s Learning Outcomes of creating civically engaged, globally aware citizens who understand how the world affects them and how they in turn shape the world.

And these courses aren’t simply about the impact that human actions have on the planet, they also focus on how we often unwittingly harm ourselves in the process.

Inside and Out

“In modern society, we face the ‘Big Urban Five’ health concerns,” Dr. Frolich tells his students each semester. “From cardiovascular, diabetic and respiratory problems to cancer and mental overstimulation leading to depression – all these problems have roots in the way we currently live our lives. The environment isn’t something separate out there. It is both inside and outside of our own bodies, and how we damage it can result in an increase in the diseases we face.”

Beyond teaching us to care for ourselves and the environment, GSELS classes have an additional ethical and democratic mission paralleling that of Miami Dade College: to create 21st century lifelong learners who strive for social justice, multicultural understanding and equality. Through these courses, students come to realize that profit derived from the exploitation of any one entity eventually winds up harming everyone.

To learn more about GSELS, visit www.earthethicsinstitute.org/GSELSHome.asp.

Communication Windows Open

While MDC’s GSELS classes show the connections between human actions and the current state of life on Earth, they also inspire students to work together for positive change. As an added benefit, GSELS courses often unite diverse groups of students in ways they may not have envisioned before.

Dr. Anouchka Rachelson has seen this happen time and again with international students in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) classes.

Speaking a new language can be intimidating, especially for adults who feel self-conscious struggling through unfamiliar vocabulary and difficult grammar structures. But communication barriers melt when the topic turns to tangible things reminding them of home.

“As part of the GSELS component of my classes, I take students into the gardens at Kendall Campus,” Rachelson said. “When they see flowers their grandmothers grow in their home countries, the conversation naturally develops from there. It also then quickly dawns on them how important it is to ensure that the natural world thrives.”

— BK


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