Spotlight on Learning and Sustainability in 2018
At the RAU, we believe that it’s important that all of our students engage with sustainability as part of their programmes as our graduates will go on to be the next generation of managers of the natural and built environment. So what have we been doing in 2018?
Our commitment to embedding sustainability in teaching and learning was confirmed in February when we secured top spot nationally for the percentage of students reached during the National Union of Student’s 2018 ‘Sustainable Development Goals Teach-in’ with academic staff pledging to include the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) within their teaching, learning and assessment.
Students across the university also continue to be engaged with a range of sustainability-based projects, many of which involve the RAU campus and farms as a ‘living lab’. For example, students on the FdSc Environmental Conservation and Heritage Management and FdSc British Wildlife Conservation programmes have, this autumn, been undertaking conservation work at the RAU’s Harnhill Farm, as part of their coursework for their first year Practical Conservation Skills module. The module involves students selecting a number of practical training courses offered by the RAU’s Rural Innovation Centre, before then having the opportunity to put these into practice through a range of field activities. These include habitat management and restoration, ecological surveying, hedge laying, and handling cattle for conservation grazing. Students often work alongside conservation organizations and employers giving them a taste of the ‘real world’. Students are then tasked with producing management plans with sustainability being a key criteria.
Most of these practical student activities are linked into real world projects and partnerships where students will develop evidence based management solutions that can be then used by land managers more widely. Similarly, data generated by students is submitted to national databases to help more generally with conservation work. For example, a two day bioblitz yielded an extensive list of species that was submitted to the Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records (GCER). Similarly, data collected by the students whilst undertaking a pond survey at Harnhill Farm was sent to the Freshwater Habitats Trust to contribute to their wetland national database.
In addition, these projects have also supported second year students to develop their sustainability leadership and communication skills as several of the training activities, including the pond survey at Harnhill Farm, have been led by second year students on their Supervisory and Mentoring Skills module.
Academic staff have also again, this year, successfully participated in the NUS’ Green Impact scheme organizing a number of profile-raising activities to get staff and students thinking about sustainability in the classroom, around the wider campus, and in their own lives. Members of the group ran workshops on embedding sustainability into the curriculum and also got involved in a number of practical sustainability activities including the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, organizing a book exchange, and promoting health and wellbeing activities such as the RAU Walkers Group.