TC Courses

TC Courses

Teachers College offers a wide array of courses on ESE across disciplines and departments. Among the growing list of courses:

Thomas James, Professor of History and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Learning through experience is the oldest and perhaps the deepest way to educate human beings. Even now, it is the earliest kind of learning for young children. The interplay of learning through experience and what comes later, formal education, is a complex and ever-changing dynamic. This seminar takes a historical perspective to explore how that dynamic changed with the rise of mass schooling, industrialization, urbanization, and advances in technology and communications. Special attention will be given to initiatives aiming to promote learning through experience amidst the ever-expanding built world and the standardization and regimentation of formal education. The seminar examines the history of efforts to foster learning settings that integrate direct experience, spontaneity, creativity, self-discovery, cooperation and adventure more fully into the education of children and young adults. A framing question for the seminar is whether the pedagogy of experience can be harnessed effectively to the aims of civic participation and social justice in a highly unequal society, leading to changes that can ensure greater equity and flourishing for all people, social groups, and the natural world.

Josef Donnelly, Teachers College, Columbia University

In an increasingly interconnected world that faces ecological collapse and continual hyper-consumption of resources it is critical to understand the impact and relationship humans have with the natural world on a global and local level. Understanding humanity’s position and influence in shaping, controlling and exploiting the Earth and its resources is vital if humans want to create a more environmentally just society for the Earth and save themselves from the effects of climate change. This course will explore contemporary and historical ideas about sustainability and environmentalism while also examining socio-political issues such as race, class, gender, citizenship while considering how the environment, historically, but especially during the Anthropocene, shapes history. 

Susan Bodnar, Teachers College, Columbia University

This course examines how the physical environment and the mutations of climate change influence child development, identity, and mental health.  It suggests new applications of psychological theory and science to help us understand how we are shaped by our changing physical environments. 

The readings are meant to draw out, focus, and enhance case studies that will be the focus of class work. Students will be expected to research and analyze published articles related to the course themes and to apply them to real life situations. Using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis, the case studies will focus attention on the dynamics of people in everyday lived life as they navigate their ecosystems. Students will complete their own field project examining the psychological processes surrounding a particular ecosystem event

Sonali Rajan, Teachers College, Columbia University

This course provides an introduction to the field of environmental health, while focusing upon those environmental factors that affect the health of communities - including biological, physical, and chemical factors. The relationship between the natural and built environments on human health is examined, including both individual and community-wide levels. In addition, the course introduces basic environmental health terms and concepts; identifies sources of environmental pollutants, their means of transmission, and their direct impact on individual and community health; and, discusses current environmental policy and regulation efforts.

Pamela Koch, Teachers College, Columbia University

The purpose of this course is to raise (and begin to answer) questions related to producing enough nutritionally and culturally appropriate foods on a sustainable basis for ourselves and the rest of the world's growing population. Because food is the product of a variety of cooperative arrangements between humans and Nature, its continued production requires, at a minimum, the continued availability of certain environmental inputs. As daily front page headlines make clear, a number of these, including the climate, are presently being stressed by various activities, (including war, preparations for it, and population movements related to it) that are part of "our way of life." Therefore, solving what is casually called "The World Food Problem" is one of the major tasks of our generation. It is the assumption of this course that there are many more aspects to the problem of nourishing the human species than are commonly recognized. The emphasis of the course is on reading, analyzing, questioning — and practicing — how to act responsibly. We remain determined optimists about the possibility of "resolving" the ecological crises of our time.

Laura Assarito, Professor of Physical Culture and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University 

In the current neoliberal governance of schooling, there is an urgent need for educators, artists, activists, and community advocates to embrace the centrality of embodiment in the reimagining of education with a focus on establishing a “sensuous interrelationship of body–mind– environment” or “oneness with nature” for sustainability transformation.  Against neoliberal thinking, Critical Issues in Physical Culture and Sustainability Education contests a rational disembodied mind and draws attention to the multi-sensorial nature of the body as intimately connected to the environment, embracing responsiveness, spirituality, sustainable lifestyles, food-justice, creativity, and peace established in a non-dualistic world for community flourishing. This course sustains a social justice agenda, advocating for the potential of arts-based, creative, social justice, spiritual, food-justice, and embodied pedagogies to enrich the life of individuals from historically marginalized groups in a wide range of educational setting by placing embodiment and its intimate connection to the natural environment at the very center of meaningful learning.  Critical Issues in Physical Culture and Sustainability Education reframes student learning as a matter of body-subjects’ situatedness, advancing the centrality of “body work” in education, and the need for an understanding of embodied praxis in schools and other sites of education for sustainability transformation.  


OreOluwa Badaki, Teachers College, Columbia University 

In this movement seminar, we will consider the affordances and limitations of centering the body within teaching and learning connected to the land.

Drawing from research and practice in critical literacy studies, performance ethnography, and environmental justice, we will explore how attentiveness to the body can inform the ways we understand the intersecting social and ecological systems that surround us. The following question will guide our creative and collaborative inquiry: what stories can our bodies remember, as well as reimagine, about our relationship with the land?

Raksha Vasudevan, Teachers College, Columbia University

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, was adopted in 2015 by all UN member states. These seventeen goals address a range of issues from poverty and hunger, to quality education, gender equality, and climate action. This course focuses on how to build local partnerships to advance sustainable development with an eye towards equity. Special focus will be placed on the role and potential of educational institutions to become community anchors in advancing SDG goals.
A variety of urban actors and institutions including NGOs, local governments, educational institutions, and community organizations have adopted sustainability as a driving framework in their goal-setting, planning, and implementation. The ‘fuzziness’ of the term has meant that these actors define and utilize the concept differently, yet complex socio-environmental issues necessitate broader collaboration for transformative change. Drawing from national and international examples, we will focus on the barriers and opportunities to progressing sustainability efforts in urban areas given the varied applications of the term, political contexts, and local socioenvironmental challenges. Specifically, we will ask, “how can educational institutions serve as centers for collaboration and partnership building to advance local sustainable development efforts?”
Oren Pizmony-Levy, Teachers College, Columbia University

Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) is a curricular movement that challenges educational systems to work for more sustainable future in which environmental, societal and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of an improved quality of life. This course examines ESE-related policies and practices within a variety of contexts and perspectives. Beginning with an overview of the foundations of ESE, we will explore key issues in the field: (a) the development of ESE policy in different levels (e.g., supranational, national and subnational); (b) the links between ESE and other movements (e.g., environmental education, human rights education and peace education), (c) drivers and barriers that shape ESE policy/practice (e.g., environmental NGOs), and (d) ESE “best practices” and their impact on teaching and learning. Our discussion will be based on variety of literatures including theoretical texts, empirical research, and policy documents.

Oren Pizmony-Levy, Teachers College, Columbia University

Climate change is the most important issue of our generation. It is one of the greatest ecological and social challenges of the twenty-first century. This course introduces key concepts and issues in the science if climate change (e.g., what we know? how we know what we know?). Then, we present sociological research on the human drivers of contemporary climate change, the impact of climate change on societies and education, and the factors that influence individuals and groups to take action. We will also discuss different proposals for addressing climate change and their possible implications to education (e.g., New Green Deal). In addition to lectures and in-class activities, the course includes guest speakers from different stakeholders and field trips.

Regina Cortina, Teachers College, Columbia University

In this graduate seminar, we will explore the application of decolonial theories to advance new perspectives and knowledge in comparative education. We will read the work of scholars such as Walter Mignolo, Arturo Escobar, Catherine Walsh, and Boaventura de Sousa Santos, among others. We will frame the discussion within relevant theories and contexts, such as internal colonialism and Indigenous ways of knowing. Among the issues to be discussed are the rights of Indigenous peoples to education and the preservation of cultural and linguistic diversity of peoples across the world. Topics include the right to education, the nature of citizenship, intercultural and bilingual education, Indigenous resistance, and decolonizing methodologies. An overarching goal is the discussion of national policies to improve access, teacher training, and intercultural understanding at all levels of education.

Denise Mahfood, Teachers College, Columbia University

The adoption of new learning standards over the last few years has provided New York State a perfect opportunity to integrate environmental experiences into standards implementation efforts. In 2017, the New York State adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards emphasize a three-dimensional approach to student learning, incorporating science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts. Moreover, the standards are an effective entry point for integration of environmental literacy initiatives. Coyle (2014) notes that the NGSS have major content focus on science as it relates to the environment, namely through energy, nature, climate, sustainability, and the earth. The environment itself is changing rapidly: populations grow, species become threatened, endangered or they are at near extinction, and of course, the human impact cannot be ignored. This course seeks to examine the core topics in environmental science and environmental education. What skills and knowledge should environmental education provide?—this is a central question we’ll explore throughout the course. Students will learn principles from the sciences of ecology and study the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. We will also focus on the importance of environmental education to have individuals use critical thinking skills to support claims rooted in evidence-based research.

With this course, we plan to explore physical, earth, and life science content topics through the study of the ocean and develop awareness of principles that impact the physical world around us. We will pay particular attention to coastal development and management, pollution, energy resources, and ways to incorporate these topics into middle school and/or high school classes. This is a condensed Summer A 6-week course that will be conducted in person, asynchronously, and with informal meetings throughout the term. Students who complete this Oceanography course are expected to be able to apply scientific concepts, principles, and methodologies to real-world examples and problems.

Monica Miles, Teachers College, Columbia University

This multicultural course examines the intersection of environmental quality, social justice, and education. It takes the premise that all people have a right to live in a clean environment free from hazardous pollution or contamination, and to the natural resources necessary to sustain health and livelihood. It explores how inequities manifest in the spaces people live, work, and play. It digs into how to develop curriculum materials that weave in environmental racism and classism in interdisciplinary ways to empower students and educators to learn more about their environment.

In addition to these courses, Teachers College is also offering professional development opportunities about sustainability. Check out recent opportunities below. 

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