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Honors Program students conduct on-campus sustainability projects

Mumford Honor Students-Dec 2013Students in Dr. Karen Mumford's Honors Program course in campus ecology are taking their passion for sustainability out of the classroom and into the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus community through hands-on projects with on-campus clients. 

"Students want hands-on experiences in sustainability and our university is a great learning laboratory for them to work in," said Mumford, an assistant professor in the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies. "We have many sustainability examples on campus, such as the Davies Center that supports a green roof, efficient energy and lighting features, and water conserving technologies in the bathrooms. Students can walk around campus and see what sustainability looks like."  Read more......

Comparing Climate Change Public Opinion of Adults and College Students in the United States and China

This project is designed to elicit a better understanding of climate change public opinion.  What do people think about climate change and maybe even a little about why they think as they do.  In particular, we are interested in comEric Jamelske w/students in Chinaparing climate change public opinion across the diverse populations in the two largest carbon emitting countries in the world; China and the United States.

If there is to be meaningful global action taken to address climate change through international cooperation, it will be essential for both China and the United States to be involved. Thus far, this does not seem to be close to happening. Despite the very different social and political cultures in these two countries public opinion on this issue will undoubtedly play a role in how climate change policy and action unfolds in both countries and internationally. Thus, a better understanding of how the United States and Chinese publics view climate change is of great interest.

This study builds on earlier work we have done examining climate change public opinion among college students in China and the United States based on surveys conducted in 2011. We have just published a paper from this work titled, Comparing Climate Change Awareness, Perceptions and Beliefs of College Students in the United States and China in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.

You can follow us in China at the following link: http://whatsgoingoninchina.blog.com/

Helping Bluebird Restoration Efforts

Bluebird. Photo by Shelly Sutley.A bluebird perches on a thin branch, balanced perfectly. With quick and snappy movements of his head, he observes his surroundings. He looks at the sky, showing off his brick red breast and white belly that complements the deep blue feathers covering his head, back, and wings. With nimble hops, he moves between branches before fanning out blue wings and diving away from the tree. The bluebird cuts through the air with grace, and lands on top of a sturdy, wooden birdhouse he calls home.

At one time, this beautiful bird was approaching extinction and in a unique course titled Civic Agency: Restoring Bluebird Habitats, students had the opportunity to participate in bluebird restoration through civic engagement. Karen Mumford and Garry Running were the instructors, but their students were just as responsible for structuring the course, gathering information, and collaborating with community members with similar interests in bluebirds.

Students met with many members of the community who provided valuable information and expertise for their project. Among those involved were citizen organizations, such as Beaver Creek Reserve and members of the community, such as Shelly Sutley of the Children's Nature Academy. Since this project focused on civic engagement, the community was a very important resource. Students used input from the community to decide what direction the project should go and what values were important to bluebird restoration efforts.

Two key values emerged among students and community members as they discussed restoring bluebird habitat. The first involved the importance of creating a sense of community when working together on important community projects, while the second recognized preserving the environment as a lifelong commitment. Based on discussions and values sharing, students and community partners identified two projects to work on together: creating a manual for making and maintaining bluebird houses and trails, and preparing proposals for funds to support a bluebird summer internship aimed at getting middle school students outdoors.

Building bird houses. Photo by Karen MumfordTo complete these projects, the class split into two teams. One team worked on the manuals, aimed at helping homeowners understand how to maintain bluebird houses and trails, or in other words, how to be responsible bluebird landlords. The second team worked on setting up the summer internship with Northstar Middle School. The proposed internship will involve UWEC students helping middle school aged students work with bluebird houses, or any activity that gets kids outside; such as gathering data on the environment. Inspired by the program called 'No Child Left Inside,' the goal is to show the importance of getting kids outside.

The students have accomplished a lot with this project. Besides aiding bluebird restoration efforts, they have strengthened their abilities to work independently and as a team to tackle challenging tasks. The course made them take on leadership roles and by the end of the semester, they gained experience collaborating with community members and learning for themselves what civic engagement is and why it is important. By doing much of the work themselves, students demonstrated that they can work in the real world and with real people. They provided useful tools to the Eau Claire community and experienced how much can be done when people with similar interests work toward a common goal.

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