Ithaca College Helps Unravel Media Messages about Sustainability

 ITHACA, NY — The BP oil spill. Food security. Greenwashing. Bottled water. Genetically modified crops. Biofuels. Every day, Americans are becoming more and more bombarded with messages — often quite conflicting — about issues surrounding the environment and sustainability. To help young people learn how to sort through those messages, a media literacy program at Ithaca College has created a curriculum kit for teachers to use in the classroom.

Media Constructions of Sustainability: Food, Water and Agriculture” is available for free to educators. Designed for use in high school and college classes, the kit includes 19 lessons that explore conflicting definitions and visions of sustainability, diverse views on our current systems and many different models for the future.

The kit was developed by Project Look Sharp, a program whose mission is to support educators in preparing students for life in today’s media saturated world. For more information on the program, visit

“The curriculum is intended to effectively engage students in rigorous analysis so they will not only learn key content but also evaluate authorship, credibility and bias in different media sources,” said Chris Sperry, director of curriculum and staff development for Project Look Sharp.

“It will get students thinking about such questions as: What policies and practices are necessary to create sustainable systems for food, water and agriculture in the 21st century? Who gets to define these and what are their interests, their perspectives and their values? How do we make sense of conflicting views of sustainability? How do we teach young people to think critically about these issues?”

Each lesson includes a teacher guide and a range of engaging media materials, including Web pages, paintings, YouTube videos, blogs, songs and excerpts from science fiction literature, documentary films, government documents and magazine articles.

Among other activities, the lesson plans have students learn “the facts” about sustainability and then reflect on the accuracy and bias of these facts; debate from the perspectives of different corporate, scientific and activist voices; read book covers and tables of contents to reflect on the different values we place on water; and analyze obituaries of Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug to decide if the “Father of the Green Revolution” saved millions of lives or planted the seed for future environmental woes, as his work was alternatively portrayed.

The complete curriculum kit can be downloaded for free at /looksharp/?action=sustainability. A hard copy of the kit is also available for purchase.

“Media Constructions of Sustainability: Food, Water and Agriculture” is Project Look Sharp’s 16th curriculum kit, reflecting its leading role in providing content-driven media literacy materials to teachers from kindergarten to college.

For more information, contact Chris Sperry or Cyndy Scheibe, director of Project Look Sharp, at or (607) 274-1324.

Originally published in IC News: Ithaca College Helps Unravel Media Messages about Sustainability.

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