Magnolias Curriculum Project 

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Wake Forest University Magnolias Curriculum Project. This two day teaching workshop is put on by the WFU Office of Sustainability, and the focus of the workshop is helping faculty meaningfully incorporate sustainability into their classroom curriculum.

First, I have to tell you this was one of the most interesting professional development experiences I’ve had since beginning my professional career five years ago. While developing our own curriculum was certainly the main focus of the workshop, we also spent a significant amount of time learning about various sustainability initiatives within our community. I’d love to share some of these with you! I’m illustrating with embedded Instragrams, because that seemed like fun!

Yadkin Riverkeeper

To begin, on Wednesday morning we got a visit from the Yadkin Riverkeeper, who is an actual person named Will Scott. I like to tell my students that I have the coolest job in the library, but Will Scott probably has the coolest job in all of Forsyth County. What does a riverkeeper do? Well, a riverkeeper helps protect their designated river, keeping it drinkable, fishable, and swimmable. Scott does this by educating and advocating for clean river water, but he also gets to kayak the river and go up in planes to monitor it twice a week.

Anyways, I learned a lot of things I didn’t know, like that 80% of Winston-Salem’s drinking water comes from the Yadkin River and that ¼ of our city budget goes to water and water treatment. The biggest threat to our water supply is high amounts of fertilizer in the water. I could tell you fun facts all day, but suffice it to say, it was fascinating. And now I really want to kayak the Yadkin River, but definitely not drink any of it.


Have you noticed the recent influx of local and organic food at the Sundry and P.O.D.? Because I have definitely noticed. During Wednesday’s lunch we learned it’s all a part of a university initiative to “plant-forward” — meaning creating healthier and more sustainable meals by focusing on increasing our vegetable and fruit options, especially at the campus dining locations. In addition increased local and healthy options at the campus convenience stores, campus dining is also working to create local and plant-forward menus for both Pits. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. Also,  apparently the switch to Krankie’s coffee in the Pit was a part of the “local” initiative!  So, yay for local coffee!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for strawberries! Get them Friday from 9am-2pm and Saturday 8am-12pm at the Miracle Grounds Farm! #winstonsalem

A post shared by CrossnoreSchool&Children'sHome (@crossnoreschoolhome) on

Boston-Thurmond Initiative

On Wednesday afternoon, we had a visit from Sylvia Oberle from the Pro Humanitate Institute, who discussed the university’s plans to get involved with the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood. The Boston-Thurmond neighborhood sits between the Reynolda Campus and downtown on either side of University Parkway. It sounds like in the future, the university would like various university groups, including faculty and accompanying students, to pursue opportunities for community engagement in the neighborhood. If you are interested, I would love to tell you more about what I saw and heard about this initiative offline. (And if you are wondering why I included a gram from the Children’s Home, it’s because they are in the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood!)

Campus Sustainability

We also chatted quite a bit about all the other work that the campus does in regards to sustainability (and it’s a lot)! There’s too much to go over here, but here are some links that I found interesting:

Information Literacy and Sustainability

Okay, time to wrap this up! Before this workshop, I would have defined sustainability as having to do with preserving the environment and working to combat climate change. And that’s definitely part of it. However, throughout the workshop, I also came to realize that sustainability also concerns itself with building sustainable communities, in terms of economic stability, environmental stability, and social equity. With that expanded definition of sustainability in mind, it was time to start thinking about how it all applied to information literacy (after all, I couldn’t just spent two whole days only learning fun facts about local sustainability initiatives!).

I’ll be honest and say that finding the connection between sustainability and information literacy is challenging, but there are still several avenues to pursue. For one, I believe that information literacy is a foundational block towards science literacy and environmental literacy. Good information literacy skills are needed to fully appreciate the scientific evidence that overwhelmingly points towards climate change. As for the expanded “community” definition of sustainability, I image most of us would agree that libraries play an integral role in building and maintaining sustainable communities.

Where I go from here with LIB 100 is the current question. As a requirement of the Magnolia Curriculum Project, I plan to include sustainability in a future iteration of LIB 100. The most likely scenario is that I will have students research sustainability-related topics (Drawdown has a great list started). In an effort to focus on information literacy as a building block to science literacy/environmental literacy, this new iteration will likely focus more on things like the ins and out of scholarly publication and parts of a research article. (Sarah doesn’t know this yet, but I plan to chat with her to get her feedback and insight as well!).

In terms of long-term planning, my “Blue Sky” scenario would involve taking Wake students out into local libraries or schools to do information literacy-related community engagement, as a part of a library-sponsored credit course. That would require a lot of forethought and planning, and is probably too much work for LIB 100 (in terms of credit hours), but it is definitely something I’m thinking about. So, I’m “ideating” on that one for now, but it’s a dream I would like see made a reality at some point in the not-too-far-away future!

If you made it this far, you deserve a gold star!! I have no gold stars, so please settle for this lovely photo: