In line with Penn’s sustainability initiatives, a group of students and faculty are working to solidify the curriculum for a new class on sustainability in Philadelphia.

Students who enroll in the new “Sustainability 101” course next semester will attend both a lecture and a recitation focused on a specific Academically Based Community Service project.

In preparation for the class, 11 undergraduate interns, together with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships and the Fox Leadership Program, are designing the community service projects this spring and over the summer.

The students are in the process of contacting the city government and community institutions to find areas that require assistance with a sustainability-related problem. Each recitation will then be created around a different issue.

The class will be taught by Mark Hughes, a member of the PennDesign faculty and founding director of sustainability for the City of Philadelphia.

“The interns have been great at deciding what works and what doesn’t for these recitations,” Hughes said. “There’s a lot of things that professors don’t think about, and these students can be very useful in designing a course.”

There will be 10 recitations held each week, and students choosing to take the class will not only have to pick a recitation based on the timing of their schedules, but also according to which project they wish to work on for the semester.

These projects range from acting as sustainability consultants for small businesses located on 40th Street and helping them optimize their resources, to planting more trees in West Philadelphia neighborhoods.

“This sort of class has never been attempted,” Hughes said. “We’re all mad scientists here, which is why we’re trying to combine a 200-person lecture course with an ABCS project that is usually done by smaller classes.”

While the course is listed under the Architecture Department as ARCH 255-401, the course is meant to be an interdisciplinary foundation course for the broad topic of sustainability aimed at students from different backgrounds, according to Course Assistant Leslie Billhymer.

The class will be cross-listed under several other departments, including Environmental Studies and Urban Studies.

All of the interns have a strong interest in sustainability and were glad to have the chance to create this course.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get involved on an active level,” College freshman and intern Deirdre Bullard said.

College sophomore and fellow intern Zack Bell agreed, adding that the course was a great way “to bridge the gap between students and the city.”

Hughes described creating the class as “a dream come true.”

“Working with these junior colleagues has been a perfect transition back to teaching for me,” he said. “I have no appetite for governing myself, but being able to teach public policy through this class is a great way to implement sustainability efforts in the city.”

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