Video series shares sustainability lessons from trip to New Zealand, Australia

Artwork on a wall in Wellington, New Zealand

Penn State students experienced sustainability in action during a Maymester trip. The experiences and lessons were captured on video and are available for the Penn State community to watch. 

Credit: Kay DiMarco

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If a picture is worth a thousand words, Annie Taylor hopes videos will bring an invaluable experience — an opportunity to learn about sustainability — to everyone, without traveling far from home.

Last year, Taylor, senior assistant dean for distance learning in the Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and Kaitlin Farnan, a business instructor at Penn State Altoona, led 20 Penn State students on a trip to New Zealand and Australia to learn about sustainable business practices.

Their experiences on that trip were captured on video by Kay DiMarco, multimedia specialist in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, who also traveled with the group, and are now available online as a collection in the University’s Repository for Open and Affordable Materials (ROAM).

“Kaitlin and I are excited about sharing these resources with faculty across the University so they can incorporate into their own courses wherever they want to showcase sustainable practices,” said Taylor, who is also director of the John A. Dutton Institute for Teaching and Learning Excellence. “And it’s just one of the great resources available on the ROAM platform at Penn State — a place where faculty can find, and share, educational resources on numerous topics that can be freely adopted or adapted for one’s courses.”

The trip was part of a three-week educational abroad course taught by Farnan during the Maymester 2023 term. The course, which was open to students from all majors at all Penn State campuses, featured a social science and humanities approach to the broad business subject of management with a focus on sustainability.

The students experienced sustainability in action while visiting farms, nature preserves, eco-tourism companies, foundations and government agencies. This included a tour of Greenspace, a system of indoor urban spaces used to grow micro greens and other produce and an inspirational talk from Ben Peacock, founder of The Republic of Everyone, a sustainability communications company, about how and why businesses can embrace sustainability in their practices, from their infrastructure and the products they produce to ensuring that every employee and consumer is engaged for the benefit of all.

The videos capture many of these experiences, including a talk from Jamie Selkirk, an academy award winning film editor and producer best known for his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was filmed entirely in New Zealand.

“This is more than a collection; it’s a gateway to inspiration and understanding of how sustainability is practiced around the world,” Farnan said. “These resources are available as open educational resources that can be freely used and adapted by instructors across Penn State, and beyond, to enrich student learning about sustainability.”

Farnan and Taylor said they hope the video project will serve as a pilot program that could support at least one similar project each year, resulting in many resources on a wide variety of topics that would be available to all Penn State instructors and beyond.

“This model could be replicated by other faculty on their own study aboard or study away trips,” Taylor said. “We are strong champions of open educational resources at Penn State — creating more free, sharable resources is a win for everyone.”