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Sustainable Futures: An Interdisciplinary Unit at the Australian Science and Maths School

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Originally appears in the Spring 2010 issue

Environmental education in Australia at present is often a gloomy and depressing affair. With our news broadcasts and curriculum dominated by dying river systems, loss of arable land to salinity and soil erosion, pollution, deforestation, global warming and the extinction of native animal species, it would be easy to leave students with the impression that human impact on environments is always negative and that hope for the future is limited. However, scientific knowledge is growing at an ever increasing rate, and new scientific research is challenging and changing commercial, industrial and social applications of scientific ideas, transforming the lives of people around the world. At the Australian Science and Mathematics School (ASMS), we believe that students must be prepared and willing to engage in and further develop the new sciences, and to link this with the social and ethical issues that are important to the development of a fair and sustainable society.

In this article, we will briefly explore some of the unique aspects of the ASMS and its curriculum. We use as an example an interdisciplinary environmental education course called Sustainable Futures that was delivered to our Year 10 and 11 students. Sustainable Futures contained studies of both global and local environmental issues and culminated in an inquiry project encouraging students to discover sustainable practices that they can use in their own backyard.

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Cat Stone and Andy Stone are science teachers at the Australian Science and Mathematics School, Adelaide, South Australia. For more information about the Australian Science and Mathematics School, visit <www.asms.sa.edu.au>.