Center for Sustainable Design Studies and Research / Pratt Institute
Sustainability Crash Course
Sustainability Crash Course
Our changing and fast-paced socio-economic environment demands of designers that they demonstrate unique agility and embrace lifelong learning in order to stay current in a variety of adjacent fields. The jury found that the Sustainability Crash Course is a new educational model that delivers effective ways to increase knowledge acquisition and build skills. The jury especially remarked on the value of a curriculum that targets the integration of academic and studio instruction and promotes a peer-to-peer learning environment that also fosters collaboration.
Sustainability Crash Course
The Center for Sustainable Design Studies and Research provides faculty, students, alumni and the NYC community educational resources that promote the integration of sustainable best practices into academic programs and professional practice.
The Sustainability Crash Course is an annual, day-long series of workshops with a host of experts from Pratt’s faculty, alumni and elsewhere. The first Crash Course took place at Pratt Institute on March 26, 2011. With over 20 speakers, it provided an opportunity for over 170 participants to hear experts discuss everything from Ecology and Biomimicry to Packaging Design and Life-Cycle Analysis.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
With a diverse audience made up of students faculty and alumni, the goal of the Crash Course was to ensure that each participant came away with a deeper understanding of Sustainable design.
Students learn what their professors teach. As creative professionals integrate sustainability into their own work it naturally becomes a part of the critical dialogue in their classroom. The Sustainability Crash Course is designed to appeal to faculty and alumni as a peer to peer learning environment that provides access to emerging tools, critical theory, business practice and in-depth case studies in product design, packaging design, fashion design, architecture and fine art. Classes in marketing, business strategies and leadership are offered along with science, art and literature. Panel discussions deepen the critical dialogue across disciplines and support professional development.
For the students in the audience, we wanted the take away to be that Sustainable design is exciting, relevant, challenging and filled with opportunity. That it goes far beyond choosing “green materials” like hemp or bamboo and that it calls for true innovation.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The intent of the Sustainability Crash Course is to provide relevant information that can be transferred into practice. We wanted to introduce students to high level thinking linked to transformative practice. We wanted to provide faculty and alumni access to new methods and give them exposure to case studies and critical frameworks that they could replicate. We wanted to give opportunities for our faculty and alumni to present leadership work alongside academic theory – in essence a chance to go back to school for a day. It is also a new educational model – to place students, faculty, alumni and the community in the classroom together – using a curatorial vs. professorial model.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
As the cornerstone to Pratt’s commitment to sustainability, CSDS works to educate both students and faculty about sustainable design strategies. Throughout the year, CSDS works with faculty to create workshops to specifically address how sustainability plays a part in their particular area of study. From these workshops, we are able to identify what the baseline understanding is of our student body, where the gaps in understanding are, and where their interests lie. Additionally, we conduct a survey with the entire graduating class to assess the importance of sustainability in their academic career as well as their future professional life. This information helps us to curate the program for the Crash Course.
In addition to surveying the students and faculty, we turned to the extensive network of professionals that Pratt has a relationship with. Our goal was to not only provide a basic understanding of sustainable design, but also to illuminate what is cutting edge in the field.
The Sustainability Crash Course looks at the challenges facing creative professionals in today’s world. While our focus was on faculty and alumni – we were very interested in feeding the student’s appetite for environmental and social innovation.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Creating vocabulary and deeper understanding of the complex systems that make up “sustainable design” adds value to the critical dialogue in the classroom and the boardroom. Engaging in a diverse series of knowledge building experiences that crosses disciplines stimulates new thinking and approaches and spawns new conversations. Learning together helps build connective tissue and broadens networks.6. Describe the overall philosophy that drove the design brief, research methodologies, tools and outcomes (e.g. self-defined or client-defined briefs, participatory briefs, process outcomes or artifacts outcomes, etc.).
Fun, Relevant, Informative, Stimulating, Practical, Inspirational7. How did the project, program or curriculum improve the students’ learning objectives, the institution’s overall learning and teaching and/or beneficial impact to outside community or industry partner?
Inviting the Brooklyn community into the academic environment creates a deeper understanding of who we are and how our concerns for environment and social justice are aligned. By inviting students to learn alongside faculty we build respect for learning as a lifelong pursuit.