Dr. Jeffrey Forrester, Mathematics

Sustainability in the Statistics Curriculum 

My decision to participate in the Valley & Ridge program grew from a long-standing interest in sustainability education and a desire to connect with other faculty and facilitators who could help suggest methods for incorporating these concepts into my statistics courses. While many issues in sustainability rely on modeling and statistics in their practice, these topics are typically not presented in the mathematics courses themselves. The V&R workshop was incredibly helpful in broadening the scope of sustainability from the environmental milieu to include cultural and economic systems and the focus on pedagogical issues was very helpful. Because my statistics courses have a large topical burden, I found the discussions on implementing a “hidden-curriculum” particularly useful. 

Based on my experiences with Valley and Ridge, I have decided to include data driven student projects using statistics to explore their “place” at the college; i.e. using various statistical tools to examine the way the students are living and interacting on campus. The students will select from a set of variables to examine, e.g. water or power use, waste generation, attitudes toward climate change or social justice and generate a question to explore. They will then propose a sampling plan and use statistical techniques: ANOVA, regression, hypothesis testing to answer their question(s) of interest. This exploration will culminate with a poster presentation at the end of the semester where the students will present their results to each other and other members of the department. These projects should help students gain exposure to sustainability concepts with special emphasis on how their lifestyles and attitudes affect these issues. The process should also increase the student’s awareness of Dickinson sustainability initiatives like The Hive, the Dickinson College Farm, and the Handlebar Bicycle Co-Op.