The difficulty with sustainability arises from its abstract nature and the fact that these problems have long term horizons. However, the seeds for sustainable development lie already in the lives of millions of people, if we just think that two important facets of sustainable development are:
urban transportation sustainability (measures and solutions able to tackle mobility challenges that lead to uncontrolled growth of vehicles and downgrading of quality of life) and
societal metabolism (models that facilitate the description of flows of material and energy within cities and provide a framework to study the interaction between human and natural systems).
Already in these aspects lies the implication of a need to fully comprehend the long-term horizon of sustainability problems and its backward relation with the present (how the choice of a transportation means affects the future status of an urban system), as well as the need to translate complex notions into concrete ones (what is the impact of citizens’ consumption habits versus the local environment).
As a result, it is essential to provide an innovative pedagogy to students of higher education that will be the policy makers of tomorrow. In particular, their education should be exploring sustainability and the complexity among its different dimensions; moreover, it should provide the necessary means for the students to experience processes of complex decision making, sharpen, their clarity of thought, enhance their communication abilities and help them develop critical thinking as well as key competences to address the complexities of sustainable development.
This type of education needs to become a process that moves towards being transformed into a more experiential and student-centered way of learning: thus helping students to constantly assess the environment, operating and adapting to it through processes of revision from their frames of reference and provide the appropriate materials to comprehend systemic complexity.
The objective of the SUSTAIN project is to commence and promote sustainable literacy among students of higher education (and young people in general) through an innovative and student-centered education. To achieve this objective, we will design, develop and implement a course to be taught in students of higher education; a course hybrid in nature, as it will combine game-based learning with an analytical style of education. In detail:
- The course will deal with transportation sustainability, societal metabolism and decision making under those contexts. The purpose will be to teach students the definitions of those notions, how they are translated in everyday life, and formalize the mathematics necessary to make robust decisions.
- The project team will develop small, illustrative simulation models that will make the definitions more concrete and allow students to experiment in a consequence-free environment. The simulation models can be used to identify scenario exemplars on how we can achieve sustainable urban transportation and a balanced societal metabolism, while taking into account formal decision making process. Thus, greater insights will be provided to the policy makers of the future regarding the complexities of decisions in uncertain issues where many stakeholders are involved.
- The approach of the SUSTAIN project is hybrid and as such the material develop so far, will be translated, in elements and mechanics of a Serious Game. The purpose is to create a board game that will allow students to learn about transportation sustainability and societal metabolism through playing. One important aspect of the design of the game it will be that it will avoid to be just an informational/fact-delivering game; the core design principle will combine delivery of facts with experiential elements that will allow students to explore their own sustainability goals and the means to achieve them.
Finally, the project is carried out transnationally because teaching students such an important issue requires the expertise of organizations that may be difficult to find concentrated in one country and secondly, it will promote to students the idea of cooperation for the achievement of a sustainable goal.
Τhe six partners that will work together to achieve the above goals are: