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Re-imagining a Sustainability Fellowship during COVID

Kayla Berry, Museum of Science

2020 Sustainability Fellowship Cohort C

In May, the NISE Network's Sustainability Fellowship Program led by Arizona State University hosted a virtual workshop for its final cohort of fellows. Originally planned as an in-person workshop, the workshop was quickly reimagined and reformatted as a series of virtual, interactive sessions due to COVID-19. Over the course of four days, 28 fellows delved into defining what sustainability means to them, for their institutions, and how to apply this knowledge to a sustainability project that they will develop and work to implement over the next few months. 

Sustainability Cohort C virtual workshop screenshot

What is sustainability? 

Put simply, sustainability means healthy people, communities, and environments, now and in the future. 

Sustainability word association image


Now especially, as we all adjust to living and working in times of COVID-19, the concept of sustainability might be taking on new meanings and significance in our lives. One participant noted that, 

"Right now in COVID-19, we have basic human needs that aren’t being met. How can we think about our role differently to be better at providing for basic human needs?" 

Throughout the four-day virtual workshop, participants discussed the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and how to be mindful of these goals in their own work, and spent time engaging in small and large group conversations as they shared their sustainability project ideas, receiving input and feedback from their fellow cohort. 

"[I'm] Really excited to connect with others from so many different areas and hear about projects and programs they work on.  I got several great ideas from others already and it's only the first day."

"I also really liked the perspective of 'education for sustainability' instead of education about sustainability - that made me think about the programs we do in a completely different way that is inspiring."

A few of the many project ideas shared by the Sustainability Fellows include:

  • A botanical garden plans to use downed trees as materials for the museum's gift shop and programs - an effort dubbed "Treecycling"
    Chris McAnally - Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario, Canada
  • A children's museum plans to create a sustainable art room designed to promote expression while using sustainable materials
    Heather Hendrickson - Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn located in Oak Lawn, IL
  • A community museum plans to start a virtual and in-person Green Cocktail event series focused on sustainability
    Karen Lottes - Gaithersburg Community Museum in Gaithersbug, MD
  • A children's museum plans to start a kids job shadowing program for kids to learn about professions related to sustainability
    Lindsay Bartlett - Lincoln Children’s Museum in Lincoln, NE 
  • A children's museum is kicking off a Sustainable Summer Family Challenge consisting of a series of online challenges about sustainability practices families can do at home
    Whitney Raser - San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in San Diego, CA


To view the full list of organizations participating in the 2019-2020 Sustainability Fellowship, visit

Sustainability resources

As fellows work to bring sustainability into their institutions and communities, the Sustainable Futures project has created a variety of professional development resources that you might find useful if you're considering incorporating new, or more, sustainable practices into your work or at your organization. These resources include: 


The Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability in Science and Technology Museums program is supported through funding from the Rob and Melani Walton Foundation.