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Living laboratory engages students with hands-on approach to sustainability

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Category: academics Video duration: Living laboratory engages students with hands-on approach to sustainability
The Honors College Service-Learning course is playing a supporting role in helping to develop the university's Climate Action Living Laboratory. Students use Virginia Tech's campus and surrounding community as a “living laboratory" to learn about sustainability. The course also offers experiential learning through field trips around the area such as the Catawba Sustainability Center and Homefield Farm.

We're really thinking about this as a sustainability living laboratory. So, instead of more traditional service learning, we're really trying to take a community and campus engaged approach. Where students are working with mentors and partners in the Office of Sustainability to achieve projects that meet their needs and goals. And particularly around the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment. Working with the Honors College has been fantastic, and we've been working with the students to help build what's called the Climate Action Living Laboratory, or the "CALL", which is trying to integrate facilities and operations side of the university with the academic side of the university. And students are an essential part of that. We have students from mathematics, we have students who are political science majors. All of those perspectives enrich our approach to sustainability here. And also in honor service learning, students can engage in things that are outside of their comfort zone. The field trips that we go on allow students to make real world connections around sustainability on the Virginia Tech campus and in the surrounding community. So it really helps to make things meaningful for students when they can get their hands in the dirt and they can meet people who are doing this work. "These are all fruit and nut and medicine producing trees." "All of these ?" I love the field trips. I look forward to them for at least a week in advance every time we go on one. Really just learning about the things that people do around Blacksburg that not a lot of people know about. It caught my eye just because I've always been interested in sustainability. I've always been very environmentally friendly, or at least I try to be. I stuck with it because I knew that I was going to actually have an impact on the campus life around me. What we're really trying to do is build competency and confidence among the students, to design and experiment, to try new things, and to look at what works, what doesn't work. And to really build something from that. So sometimes projects are feasible, and that's important learning for students. But in this way, students are learning by doing real important, meaningful work. It's more than just a group project where we make a PowerPoint presentation. We are working towards something that will end up being a very big thing, and we're all very passionate about it and we all really care about it, which I think is great.