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Urbanization and impacts on the environment: an inter-disciplinary approach

Production of scientific documents on urban agriculture, field school in Marrakesh to learn about the realities of urban ecology issues in southern countries... Unlike traditional instructional formats, Bondy’s inter-disciplinary approach organised by the Sorbonne University Bachelor College appeals to students.

It is one of the educational innovations promoted by Sorbonne University within the Sorbonne University Bachelor College. For two years, in partnership with the IRD (Institute de recherche pour le développement), whose work focuses on southern nations, Marie et Pierre Curie University (UPMC) and Paris-Sorbonne University are introducing an original program on a key issue of sustainable development: urbanization processes in the north and in the south and their impacts on the environment. The training brings together science instructor-researchers from the UPMC, geographers from Paris-Sorbonne University and researchers and professionals from the IRD. The common theme is to raise awareness among students about research methods and tools starting in the first year of their Bachelor’s program. For this reason it is being held on the IRD campus at Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis).

An active learning method 

In the first year of the Bachelor’s degree, the program features a teaching unit of around fifty hours dedicated to urban agriculture, which hosts students from the geography UPMC and UFR at Paris-Sorbonne University. The curriculum involves lectures, but also and above all small group work, field trips, workshops on introduction to mapping, geographic information systems, document and bibliographical research and audio-visual techniques. The program culminates with the production of a scientific film on the experience related to urban agriculture or ecology. The project is a resounding success; students are very committed to their work, even returning to Bondy after hours to work on the editing of their film.

An award at the Frontières du Court festival

Last February, one of the six documentaries produced by the first class of the UE (2013-2014) received a special award from the jury at a short-film festival devoted to environmental issues: Les frontières du Court. Entitled J’ai descendu dans mon jardin, it recounts the successes and limitations of a communal garden project conducted in an under-privileged neighborhood in Aulnay-sous-Bois, aimed at enhancing the quality of life of its residents and helping them build a social fabric.

A partnership with the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh.

Since fall 2014, the program has continued in the second year of the Bachelor’s degree with a teaching unit devoted to urban ecology and sustainable development in southern nations, which was first offered experimentally to geography students at Paris-Sorbonne, but should also be open to UPMC students in the fall of 2015. It prioritizes workshops and small group work. But above all it includes a field school in Morocco, organised in partnership with the Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh. In spring of 2015, the fifteen students of the UE spent a week at the site. They observed the impact of urban and tourist development on the city’s palm grove; discovered the khettaras, the old system of underground water channels to drain water from the foothills of the Atlas mountains to supply water to Marrakesh; they visited a purification plant where waste water is filtered using gravel and plants before being reused for irrigation purposes... Each day included a field exercise supervised by professors from Cadi Ayyad University and accompanied by students from Moroccan master or Ph.D. programs. “Since the COP 21 was taking place in Paris, and COP 22 was scheduled to take place in Morocco, we deliberately focused the program on issues related to climate and managing water resources in a southern nation,” explains Brigitte Surugue. Here again, throughout the trip, the students worked together to film a documentary.

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