Using energy audits and climate action planning as a community-based environmental studies capstone experience at Bowdoin College

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Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences


Capstone courses in environmental studies and science programs offer the opportunity to develop authentic research experiences situated in real-world community problems that teach students how to manage complex projects, understand stakeholder challenges, collaborate effectively in teams, appreciate interdisciplinarity in real-world contexts, and navigate messy problems first hand. I describe how climate action planning was used as the centerpiece of a newly developed senior-level capstone course in the Environmental Studies Program at Bowdoin College where students and the instructor collaborated as a team of consultants to develop climate action plans for the towns of Brunswick and Topsham, Maine. The course project consisted of three parts: energy audits and greenhouse gas inventories, identification of data gaps and refinement of analysis, and development of climate action plans with specific emission reductions targets and recommendations for achieving them. This capstone experience was successful in helping to achieve several specific learning outcomes, and the challenges encountered offered several useful teachable moments. Overall, students found the senior capstone experience to be a highly valuable part of their undergraduate experience and indicated unanimous strong support for the continued offering of capstone courses in the Environmental Studies Program. © 2011 AESS.

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