Environmental Studies

Community Partners & Experiential Learning

Our students engage in community-based learning and research in Oberlin and beyond.

Bird's eye view of Oberlin
Photo credit: Oberlin College
In Oberlin

Environmental Dashboard: The Environmental Dashboard project uses real-time feedback on the resource flows, environmental conditions and human thought and action to engage, motivate, and empower sustainability and resilience in communities. Students in ENVS 354 Practicum in Environmental Communication complete projects for the Dashboard that explore ecological design, feedback technology, and software development.
AJLC Living Machine: The Living Machine provides a place for students to learn specialized skills and receive hands-on experience testing water samples through Fecal Coliform Culturing, Biological Oxygen Demand, Ion Chromatography, Ammonium Probe Testing, and data acquisition through probe-based methodology.
George Jones Farm: The program has a long history of collaboration with the Jones Farm. It has been a site of community-based projects for ENVS 101 student groups, a venue for student field trips, and a living laboratory for students studying agriculture and food studies. It is also home to ENVS 336/7 Practicum in Agroecology, where students learn about seasonal sustainable agriculture and its contribution to local food systems, food access, and food justice through interactions with various community partners.

Beyond Oberlin

Environmental Justice & Local Knowledge (Africatown, AL): Students in ENVS 230 Environmental Justice and Local Knowledge take part in community-directed research in Africatown, on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, which was founded by the last group of enslaved Africans brought to the United States on the ship Clotilda in 1859. Over the past few years, student researchers have traveled to Africatown with Associate Professor Janet Fiskio to collect soil samples and help conduct a community health survey and work collaboratively with community members to build a digital oral history archive to help preserve and share Africatown’s history.
Vel’s Purple Oasis (Cleveland, OH): The Oasis has a long-standing partnership with Oberlin and has collaborated on a number of projects, including field trips. Over the summer months, student assistantships have supported research at the Oasis, a learning garden and teaching kitchen in University Circle, Cleveland. Students take part in urban gardening, including designing and constructing greenhouse garden beds, and conduct independent research. 
Climate Change and Cultural Resilience (Utqiaġvik, Alaska): Assistant Professor Chie Sakakibara has led student research assistants on trips to Utqiaġvik, Alaska—the northernmost community of the United States—to initiate conversations with community leaders, educators, traditional knowledge experts, and youth on indigenous environmentalism focusing on climate change, human rights, political ecology, and cultural resilience. 

The Environmental Studies program coordinates with the Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, and Research to secure community based projects for ENVS 101 and prepare students for community-based work by providing training on the ethics and etiquette of community engagement.