Sustainability transdisciplinary education model: interface of arts, science, and community (STEM)

Barbara Clark (Teacher Education, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA)
Charles Button (Teacher Education, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 11 January 2011



The purpose of this paper is to describe the components of a sustainability transdisciplinary education model (STEM), a contemporary approach linking art, science, and community, that were developed to provide university and K‐12 students, and society at large shared learning opportunities. The goals and application of the STEM curriculum will be discussed.


The STEM integrates the sciences, arts and aesthetics, and the university with the greater New Britain community, and beyond. Academic areas included geography, environmental science, communication, art history, aesthetics, and teacher education. The transdisciplinary methodology was integrated in a learner‐centered design. To achieve a cycle of community engagement regarding sustainability, university students were placed within the greater New Britain community. This included interaction with K‐12 urban public schools, the New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA), numerous nongovernmental organizations, state and federal governmental elected officials, and the general public.


As a result of the mutual learning implicit in the STEM, all participants expanded each other's understandings of sustainability. Students were learning from instructors, instructors were learning from students, students were learning from students, instructors were learning from instructors, and all were learning and sharing knowledge with the greater community. As a result, all participants gained a deeper and broader understanding about human‐environment relationships and how humans impact natural resources.

Practical implications

Because the assignments given to the university students were authentic performance tasks embedded in sustainability issues, students developed a broader disposition for thinking and learning and therefore become metacognitive. The STEM emphasized aesthetic education, integrating science and the arts. As a result, the participants developed their ability to connect academic domains of knowledge and creatively address sustainability challenges.


The convergence of science, art, and aesthetics enabled the participants to develop a deeper spiritual awareness and understanding of eco‐justice for the promotion of a sustainable society. The STEM utilized cultural resources of the university and New Britain community (i.e. institutional members of the NBMAA and The Central Connecticut State University). Students were introduced to the concept of mutual learning with all the communities and organizations involved.



Clark, B. and Button, C. (2011), "Sustainability transdisciplinary education model: interface of arts, science, and community (STEM)", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 41-54.

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