By Dani Moritz-Long
Sustainability is a personal passion of Mathematics Professor Brian Macon. He drives an electric vehicle, educates his kids about sustainable practices, recycles responsibly and does his best to reduce his carbon footprint. And for good reason.
Brian understands that sustainability is about much more than the trendy slogan “going green;” it’s about making impactful and lasting changes to ensure the survival and health of future generations.
As Brian explains, the intertwining issues revolving around the usage of water, energy, food and transportation are complicated, but they’re also pivotal and often overlooked and misunderstood.
Naturally, as an educator, Brian sought a way to help Valencia students better understand these issues. Unfortunately, as a mathematics professor, he found limited opportunity to infuse sustainability into his classroom curriculum at the depth he would like.
Thus, what’s known today as the STEAM Challenge was born — an interdisciplinary, extracurricular contest to engage students in conversations about sustainability. Through the contest, Brian said, “I tried to make everything tie to together to help students see that sustainability isn’t just about one specific issue; it’s all interconnected.”
In doing so, he created an educational STEAM Challenge Web page and, in partnership with Psychology Professor Debra Hollister, invited students to collaborate on videos. These videos empowered students to demonstrate their knowledge of intertwined sustainability problems and encouraged the students to formulate potential solutions. The challenge also enabled students to channel their creative potential by scripting, producing and editing the videos.
You can see two sample student videos below:
In the contest’s second year, Brian and Debra took the contest winners to the 2017 Sustainability Expo at Hillsborough Community College on Saturday, April 8, 2017, an opportunity that proved just as eye-opening for Brian as it was for the students.
“On the way back during dinner, all five students remarked that it was an amazing experience for them,” Brian said. “They valued the opportunity they had to learn about sustainability through the video competition. Then, the topic of the conference was tiny houses and sustainable living. They said they were exposed to concepts that will be important for them as they grow up and buy homes and look at how they’re going to live.”
In the future, Brian looks forward to continuing to host the contest, fostering more interdisciplinary partnerships and greater student understanding of the reality of today’s (and tomorrow’s) sustainability challenges. If you’re interested in collaborating with Brian on this contest or other sustainability projects, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-299-5000, extension 7777.