Braaten, whose CIS major is entitled "Educating for an Ethic of Sustainability," said that she had the original idea for the class when she noticed the significantly low numbers of students in attendance at Environmental Coalition meetings last year.
"There are so many people who want to be involved, but school always comes first and its hard to prioritize," she said. "It will be great to have this class with a hands-on experience where we will be looking at issues here at the college and exploring [these issues] as part of the classwork."
This fall, Braaten has been working on an independent study in which she planned the framework for the syllabus. She said she tried to find readings that incorporated environmental education into all disciplines and even used some texts that she had read previously for other classes.
According to Farrell, the curriculum spans everything ecological from David Orr, an advocate of environmental literacy in education, to J. Crew catalogs.
The purpose of this American Studies course, according to its course description, is to "discover America by looking at the way we live at St. Olaf College." In the process, the course will encourage students to "use [their] designing minds to make St. Olaf more sustainable."
Farrell explained that the course will examine everything on campus from residence halls to the cafeteria to parking, particularly from an environmental perspective. In such examinations, factors such as energy and resources will play key roles.
"It is a course in practical idealism. It shows students that they can be idealistic, but they can also do something right here, right now," said Farrell. " Theyll know from this class what to do."
According to the syllabus, during Earth Week members of the class will offer ecological tours of campus, present poetry readings, create photo exhibits, prepare chapel talks and present a public lecture.
Farrell also said that every research project in the class will revolve around the Sustainability Task Force on campus, of which both Farrell and Braaten are a part. Headed by Director of Facilities Pete Sandberg, Braaten said that this group of faculty, staff and a few students are in the process of determining ecological principles, which the college will then try to uphold in all of its decisions.
"If you do your research well, you can have an impact on how the college operates," said Farrell. "I think that students will begin to realize how complex everything is, and how difficult it is to make big changes at an institution."
In the classroom, Braatens role will not be as a student teacher or teaching assistant, but instead as another professor. "It will be the same as I would team teach with anybody else," Farrell said.
While Braaten is not an actual professor and therefore cannot administer grades, Farrell said that she will still read papers, because "its important to respond to what students write."
In the future, Farrell hopes to offer the class every year because he believes that "it will make a difference to the college."