Students’ Commitments to the Commons: Civic action and learning in place- based stewardship education

Project Lead

Connie Flanagan

School of Human Ecology

Community Partner

SEMIS (Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition)


In this project we explore students’ understanding of civic concepts at the heart of environmental issues.  In collaboration with teachers who are part of the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS) we are investigating the potential of eco-justice education for developing students’ understanding of civic concepts such as the commons, interdependence of humans and other living things, social responsibility and collective action. In SEMIS projects elementary, middle- and high-school students from a broad range of socioeconomic and racial-ethnic backgrounds partner with community organizations to identify, study, and address environmental issues in their communities. Through hands-on collective action, youth take responsibility for the commons that citizens share and develop their identities as environmental stewards and agents of change.  Our team is coding artifacts from students’ projects and their responses to openended questions about what they did and learned from their community actions.  Themes in our coding scheme include references to civic skills, collective efficacy, power, government, environmental resources as a commons, interdependence, and social responsibility. Results will reveal the relatively untapped potential of place-based environmental and sustainability education for developing the civic understanding, agency, and commitments to the commons in younger generations.