Teaching for a greener future

I graduated from Stony Brook University with a major in Ecosystems and Human Impact in 2011 and am currently working at Suffield Academy, a private high school in Connecticut, as a science teacher. I developed curriculum for two courses: Ecology and Elements Food Science: From Lab to Landfill. Since Ecology is mainly taught at a college-level, I modified the curriculum to align with the needs of high school students, while drawing inspiration from the Ecology, Ecology Laboratory, and Systems and Models, courses that I took at SBU, taught by Dr. Jim Hoffmann. These classes, as well as the many others that aiding in my ability to understand science, inspired my passion for science and taught me how to think like a scientist, thanks to the guidance of Dr. Hoffmann. I try to instill this perception of science as well as the passion for knowledge to my students and gear their learning towards the experience of learning, rather than making it grade-oriented. The course expands on the major Ecological themes and allows students to explore these concepts through many hands-on projects.

The food class draws inspiration from my time as a leader of SBU Garden Club at both the Stony Brook and the Southampton campuses. Additionally, I utilize knowledge gleaned from the teachings of Dr. Harold Quigley, Jr., the Integrative Collaborative Systems Studies’ corn course, and, especially, eco-aesthetics of art instructor Dr. Marc Fasanella. Dr. Fasanella mentored me during my independent research projects during which we explored scientific thinking and how it is perceived by the public, defining nature and human’s role, scientific philosophy, and drafting skills.

My food course expands utilizes some of these principles, especially those based around the perception of the natural world and the drafting skills so the students can design growing structures for the greenhouse.  The class also expands on the food industry, chemistry of food, food culture, diets, agriculture, managing the campus garden and greenhouse, planting seeds, and pest management.Additionally, I manage the campus greenhouse, utilizing the space to allow for students to plants seeds for the garden. Recently, a solar array was purchased and will be installed later in the year to run the heater, water pump for the rainwater collection system, and other appliances. I gained much of my knowledge of greenhouses from my time at SBU organizing the greenhouse at the Southampton campus as well as working with the greenhouse staff at the Stony Brook campus.

In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I am the faculty leader of the TREE Club (Teaching Responsible Environmental Education) and am charged with stewarding environmental thinking on campus with a group of students. I gained experience organizing groups during my time at SBU when I served on the board of many clubs and organizations; the Campus Beautification Committee, the Environmental Club, the Conservation Collective, the Sustainable Aesthetics Committee, the Organic Garden Club, and the Greening Committee. I, along with the student leaders of the TREE club, organize a campus-wide Earth Day event and plan to continue the tradition in the future.

Today I also aid in the stewardship of ecological thinking during my responsibilities as a faculty leader of the SOLO (Suffield Outdoor Leadership Opportunities) program. During this program, I work with a group of students to teach them ecological principles and naturalist skills during a variety of activities that include hiking, birding, wilderness survival, rock climbing, etc.

Working with my students in the classroom.

Me, left, working with my students in the classroom.

By Nick Zanussi
Sustainability Studies Program ’11
Ecosystems and Human Impact Major

One thought on “Teaching for a greener future

  1. Thank you Nick. Great to see your message here and to learn about your continuing career. You do us proud. Best wishes, Jim

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