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Students Explore Sustainability in Costa Rica


Costa Rica Students get up close and personal with the local wildlife at a Costa Rican crocodile farm.

May 15, 2012 – Assistant Professor Henry Quesada of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials returned to Costa Rica this spring with a group of students for the study abroad component of his Global Issues in Sustainability course. The course, first offered in spring 2010, is designed around student-centered methods, such as active learning, cooperative learning, and inductive teaching and learning. These methods encourage student reflection as part of the learning process rather than teacher-centered methods like traditional lectures, assignments, and grading, which offer minimal opportunity for students to learn independently.

The course seeks to connect academics with practice, foster an effective interdisciplinary curriculum, link students to work experience and job opportunities, and engage and empower students in the realm of sustainability, natural resources, and environment. The Costa Rica trip offers students the opportunity to visit national parks, businesses, and natural attractions in order to experiment, learn, and reflect on the interactions of humans with natural resources.

“Sustainability is a very difficult topic to teach because it comprehends environmental, societal, and economic elements that are complex and sometimes conflictive in nature,” Quesada said. “It also requires a multidisciplinary effort to bring discussions that represent multiple point of views on the same issues. But perhaps the most important element when teaching sustainability is the method of teaching. Students who experience sustainability in a defined context are more open to understand the relationships underlying sustainability and are more eager to engage afterward.”

Students have responded positively about the course, indicating that they have developed new attitudes and behaviors about sustainability, and feel empowered and motivated to apply the knowledge gained abroad to their own local contexts. “The study abroad empowered me as a student in many ways,” one student reflected. “It taught me that I don’t always have to rely on papers and rankings to tell me information but that I could go to the problem and assess it myself.” Another student explained, “I frequently take what I learned in Costa Rica and apply it to many different things I encounter in my studies.”

    CNRE Newsmagazine Spring 2012 Cover

Spring 2012

25th Anniversary

Celebrating 25 Years

    1992 through 2017, 25 years

Join us Sept. 15-16 to visit campus and reconnect with alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.

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