IMSA’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can be seen in the Snapshot. Some highlights of the interconnectivity between the Goals and curriculum are:
IMSA’s Leadership Education & Development program (LEAD) is a student facilitated course for sophomore students. The mission of LEAD is to foster social awareness and equip students with the resources to enhance their understanding of the inner works of leadership. During the first semester, students explore what leadership means to them. Students go on to apply leadership through their elective course spring semester. The three electives students may choose from are SocEnt, EnACT, ImpACT, which center on social entrepreneurship, public policy, and data journalism, respectively. Students will work on student group projects which address a UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) as a framework to choose a targeted issue and structure their research. The seventeen UN SDGs have been organized into four umbrella categories. The four categories are: environment, energy, social justice, and economy. LEAD facilitators chose to made categories for the UN SDGs in order to address overarching problems that students were seeing in their communities. Once a UN SDG category is chosen, students then identify one of the seventeen SDG’s, such as quality education, and use this to connect with industry experts, entrepreneurs, and educators in order to better understand how their selected global issue exists locally.
UNSDGs in the Biology Classroom
In IMSA’s biology classrooms, the curriculum focuses on seven Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Clean Water and Sanitation, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Climate Action, Life Below Water and Life on Land. The students are asked to select an ecological problem, explain the ecology prior to the disruption, define the problem, explain the role humans have played in the problem and propose solutions. The students are then asked to create a video presentation with their findings.
Advanced Biological Systems is year-long introductory biology course for Juniors at IMSA. It is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, the use of which has been identified as an initiative for curriculum development. These goals help to bring purpose to students’ learning. We have identified three of the seventeen goals as guideposts for our curriculum. These are clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, and good health and well-being. In this presentation, we will share our curriculum development process and examples of instruction linked to these UN goals.
Other biology course electives focus on:
- Cancer Biology: Students study the molecular mechanism of cancer as a model to understand core concepts in cellular biology.
- Microbes and Disease: Students model the pathogenesis of bacterial and viral microbes.
- Pathophysiology: Students study how biological networks have evolved in a specific way to perform essential functions, the subsequent result of evolution selecting for the organisms that survive. Students learn how to build models of biological systems by examining the inputs, studying the interactions of the system with external and internal factors and finally predicting the possible outcomes of the system.
- Evolution, Biodiversity and Ecology: In each unit, students research the most closely related SDGs to identify issues, current solutions, and potential future directions.
- Life Below Water Unit (SDG #14): Effects of climate change, pollution, invasive species, etc. on health of aquatic systems
- Life on Land Unit (SDG #15): Create terrestrial food webs, simulate and predict effects of small changes to the ecosystem, investigate issues and solutions in biomes across the world
- Climate Action Activities (SDG #13): Focus on taking action that will contribute to solutions for climate change.
- Biology of Behavior: In each unit, students research the most closely related SDGs to identify issues, current solutions, and potential future directions.
- Gender Equality (SDG #5): Address what biological mechanisms affect the range of expression of biological sex as well as gender in humans as well as other animals. Importance of women’s health is addresses through biological lens
- Good Health and Well-Being (SDG #3): Effect of behavior on human health and well-being and mental health
IMSA connects personal and collective community service with progress towards the UN SDGs. Each student is required to complete 200 hours of community service in order to graduate. Service Learning provides students with an opportunity to learn about community organizations, the working world, and their role as contributing volunteers.
Service Learning Goals
- Student will self select service learning opportunities that reflect personalization in their learning.
- Student will develop skill sets through engagement in service learning.
- Student will demonstrate an increased engagement in service activities.
- Student will perceive the connection between civic mindedness and their actions and decisions.
- Student will gain awareness of how their actions impact a larger societal context.
Partnership with Northern Illinois University
In the fall of 2018, IMSA initiated a collaboration between the Student Inquiry and Research (SIR) program at IMSA and Melissa Lenczewski, a geology professor and leader in the Environmental science program at Northern Illinois University. This has several components, the first being to give our students a deeper understanding of hydrogeology, specifically as it pertains to groundwater. This relates to the goal of Clean Water & Sanitation. The students are learning where the water that we use everyday for drinking and other uses comes from, as well as what sorts of geological, ecological, and anthropomorphic influences can impact the availability and safety of this resource around the world. The research component of the collaboration has our students installing and making use of wells on our own campus, so that they can learn the types of testing techniques necessary for us to evaluate this water that is so important to life on earth, and which is a necessity that is becoming more and more scarce with time. This collaborative project is also being treated as a pilot, with the hopes that the work between NIU and IMSA can extend to the creation of curriculum around both the content and the research experience to be used as a model for other schools to use, both in education around water as well as in the examination of other environmental and health related issues as guided by the 17 UNSDGs. The partnership, and how we are working together both in our instruction and guidance of students, as well as how we are collaborating as educators to take the next step with the program, can be used as an example for other similar collaborative partnerships in the future that will take our focus on the UNSDGs beyond our classrooms and our campus.