My Three Weirdest University Courses
As a an academic in environmental studies, I've taught an array of standard survey courses in the field; environmental politics, environmental humanities, environmental history, environmental philosophy etc etc. I've enjoyed all this very much. However, I have also had the opportunity to draw up a few specialized courses from scratch using novel or creative methods of teaching and study. Perhaps, the strangest three of these are listed below -- with a brief description.
I put them here just in case other teachers of environmental studies might be interested to learn of them. Remember, just like some of you, I'm a teacher. I'm not trying to sell you anything -- I'm just sharing my own experiences and can send to you the course outlines if you so wish. Or you can run a search through a search engine about these courses to locate teaching materials.
The Ecotopia 2121 Course
This course asks that students select a city and predict its future in ‘Green Utopian’ terms, whence all environmental and social problems are just about totally solved. Students must study the history of their chosen city, the geography of their chosen city, the socio-cultural background of their chosen city, and the environmental problems of their chosen city. They then design the future scenario of their chosen city for about 100 years into the future. Using their new knowledge, they have to describe the technological and social innovations that are needed to solve ALL the environmental problems of their city by 2121 -- including problems associated with future climate change. Solving ALL the environmental problems means that a certain amount of utopian theorizing must be involved (though students soon come to see both the value and vexations associated with utopian ideas). The resulting urban scenarios have then to be presented in a visual/artistic form within a written essay.
The Ecotopia 2121 course was first taught at Mahidol University Social Sciences department in 2014 and won the Kenneth M. Roemer Innovative Course Design Award.
The 'Fantasy Method of Urban Design' Course
This course introduces students to the art and science of predicting urban futures via the "Fantasy Method of Urban Design". Students are required to undertake a number of steps:
- Select an important literary work from the genre of fantasy or science fiction.
- Design an urban plan (which involves both artistic and intellectual elements) for a chosen city based on that literary work.
- Investigate which elements of the resulting urban plan are desirable/undesirable, and to find out why/why not.
- Identify and predict which cities in the world may soon possess these desirable and undesirable elements, and what should be done about them.
- Present the results in narrative and visual forms.
For more details about the "Fantasy Method of Urban Design", go to this article printed in DISEÑA or see this for 4 minute video introduction. The related "Literary Method of Urban Design" is outlined here.
The Ecomimicry Course
Ecomimicry is nature-inspired, eco-friendly, socially-responsible, local-based design. This course will help students develop skills in the arts and sciences of ecomimicry. Each student will be involved in designing either a technology, a landscape, or an artwork of their choice. The only constraints are that the design must be inspired by an animal or plant (or natural eco-setting) of their home community and it must be environmentally-friendly in some way or other and proposed to be usable within their home community setting. Students of all disciplines will be welcomed with visual arts and liberal arts students possibly teamed-up with design students or ecology students to encourage interdisciplinary teamwork.