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Sustainability Cards in Sustainable Development Classroom

On 21 February 2024, 27 students in the foundation course Sustainable Development (led by Maria Dubrova), used the sustainability reflection cards. After a general presentation on the underlying theoretical frameworks and the design of the cards, we introduced a local sustainable development case study: a redevelopment masterplan for the riverside area of the City of Sunderland in the UK. The plan maps out an ambitious vision of regenerating the former industrial riverside, create parks, new bridges, sustainable housing, a new business district, smart city infrastructure, among other sweeping changes. Four years on from the creation of the masterplan, construction is underway for some of the ambitious development. However, not everything from the plan is realised and this gave the students space to reflect on the feasibility and sustainability of the Riverside project.


The students formed four groups and after familiarising themselves with the masterplan, they were given a section to study in more depth. They then used the sustainability cards to analyse and critique their section. They placed the cards on a two-axis coordinate system. Along the horizontal axis they put cards based on how well the question it raises is addressed in the masterplan. They placed the cards along the vertical depending on how interesting the students found this question.

We then asked them to pick 4 cards from their map. Two had to come from the “not so well addressed & interesting” quadrant, and two from the “not so well addressed & not interesting” quadrant. They then shared with the other groups what they found out about their given section of the masterplan, how they used the card to analyse it, which four cards they chose and how the masterplan is falling short of addressing the questions raised on the cards.


In a final step, we used the Crazy 8 method to brainstorm ideas for improvements to the masterplan. Each student got a sheet with 8 sticky notes. They then had 8 minutes to come up with 8 ideas. The aim of the method was to produce a lot of ideas, many of them might be very basic, unrealistic, or too vague. While there was no time during the class to cluster and review them, among the 201 ideas generated (not all students produced 8 ideas), there may be a few ideas worth pursuing further or feeding back to Sunderland City Council.

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