(List #108)5 Innovative Examples of Student Engagement (Green Gown Award Edition)

Examples from Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Saudia Arabia and Japan.

(List #108)5 Innovative Examples of Student Engagement (Green Gown Award Edition)
University of Tasmania

The annual Green Gown Awards recognising innovations in embedding sustainability into higher education recently released their long list of finalists across eight categories. While the details of each project have not yet been released, I couldn’t help but have a little search around to learn about some of the finalist projects that sounded interesting. Here are five to get you started specifically focused on student engagement. 


Over 100 indigenous languages exist in Malaysia but most are classified as endangered. To save these from extinction, International Islamic University of Malaysia, Wikimedia Malaysia, National University Malaysia and UNESCO are collaborating with different organisations to document the language using online platforms in a programme called WikiKata (literally meaning WikiWord). Student volunteers are trained to go into the community to work with language speakers to populate the platform with not just words, but audio recordings of pronunciations and video footage of people speaking their mother tongue. The data is also being used by the universities for research purposes as well.


The Sustainability Projects Fund at McGill University in Canada is the largest fund of its kind in Canada, valued at more than $1CDN million annually. Each student contributes $0.55 per credit into the fund which is matched, dollar to dollar, by the University. The fund’s mandate is to build a culture of sustainability on McGill campuses through the development and seed-funding of interdisciplinary projects. Students can put forth new project ideas or engage with projects currently receiving funding. Past projects include growing fruits and vegetables locally to be used by the University’s food and dining services, a project to increase pollinators on campus, and improving McGill’s waste systems to achieve zero waste.


Students at the University of Tasmania in Australia designed and build a series of timber structures to provide habitat for threatened native animals, insects and birds. The students were challenged to design pieces that were not only homes for these creatures but would be objects of interest and beauty. Named The Specials Hotel, the project started back in 2016 with first year students and has now become a permanent feature of the curriculum. The projects bring together first year students along with staff, scientists, landowners and primary and secondary school students. 


King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudia Arabia, in partnership with UNDP is launching a new educational initiative to provide a series of articles on each of the 17 SDGs as part of open access youth journal Frontiers for Young Minds. The articles will explore the role of sustainability driven research in catalysing social and economic process. The collection, edited by KAUST experts, will go through a peer-review process involving students from local schools. Additional resources, such as student-led author interviews, will also be provided.


In 2003, Chibu University in Japan established a Student Committee for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) to engage students in the schools acquisition of the ISO international standard for EMS. As part of the Plan-Do-Check-Act process that is central to the ISO framework, students participate in creating and executing action plans for setting targets, monitoring and measuring, performing internal audits and working with external auditors.  The Committee also plays a key role in drafting of environmental objectives and plans, and editing sustainability reports. The committee involves more than 150 students and is registered as a not for profit.

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