Sustainable Development: It’s as Easy as F-E-W


This case study presents a framework for exploring challenges associated with sustainable management of food, energy, and water (FEW) resources in user-defined case study locations using a combination of jigsaw and role playing methods. In the base scenario described in the lesson plan, students are presented with U.S. regions that have an uneven distribution of resources; for example, the Pacific Northwest has ample water while other regions are water-limited but are rich in fertile land (e.g., the Midwest) or in sunlight for electricity production (e.g., Mojave desert). In this case study, students use concept maps to evaluate the various natural and social factors influencing a community’s ability to secure and utilize these critical resources. Then, working in groups, students propose a sustainable development policy specific to their community’s needs and evaluate its effectiveness using a game-based approach. This case study is designed for use in introductory courses of any discipline that address management of natural resources by communities in some capacity; suggestions are provided throughout the handout on ways to modify the content to reflect a specific course focus or course level. This case study can be implemented as a lesson in three, 50-minute class periods.

Thushara Gunda
Katherine Nelson
Nirav Patel
Course/Class Size
This lesson was successfully implemented in an interdisciplinary course on food-energy-water systems with 20 students (freshman-senior) from different disciplines (arts & sciences, engineering, business, environmental & biological sciences, pharmacy).