The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Professor incorporates hands-on learning into curriculum

Photo credit: Mariela Molina, Contributing Photographer

After visiting many countries and always having a passion for geography, CSUN Professor Gregory Schwartz, at California State University, Northridge said he feels strongly that we need to be benevolent individuals in order to save our planet.

Three years ago, Schwartz started teaching geography to CSUN students with the goal of not just taking information out of the course textbook and lecturing on it, but rather giving students another opportunity to comprehend geography through a different perspective, he said. Among the material he recommends his students read, is a book called “5 Ways to Save the Planet in Your Spare Time,” which he wrote himself.

According to Schwartz, this book will save students money and help them become more aware of the current environmental problems consisting of global warming, pollution, human trafficking and deforestation. His book also stresses the solutions for the problems and tells students they can help the environment by contributing to a cause. Recycling, saving water, donating money and eating organic are examples of ways students can easily contribute and ameliorate their lives.

“I tell my geography students, ‘Examine how you live. Can it hurt or help the environment?’ Understanding geography makes the study of human life and the environment into an academic discipline” said Schwartz, 38.

Schwartz teaches his students how to understand our planet’s problems and actions into solutions. Schwartz takes his students every semester to Tierra Miguel, a farm in San Diego County, where they get to pick fresh strawberries, plant cucumbers, pull weeds and learn the basics of organic farming.

He gives students the chance to do something physically. He said he believes that if a student does something physically, he or she will never forget it. Schwartz learned about this philosophy of hands-on learning at a young age. He was raised by parents who were farmers, and the majority of their work was hands-on, he said.

Born in Barstow, California, Schwartz moved to the outskirts of Los Angeles when he was 3 years old. After living in a secluded neighborhood, he felt the need to travel. During his undergraduate years at UC Berkeley, where he received his bachelor’s degree in geography, he visited Africa and South America. Then during his stay at the University of Wisconsin, Madison for his master’s and doctorate degrees, he traveled to more countries: Egypt, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and Greece.

By traveling all around the world to places such as Thailand, one of his favorite places, Schwartz said he learned how to acknowledge and incorporate other styles of living that differentiate from his own. He said he learned how to cook Thai food and live his life with balance and equality, which he believes are two important factors in the Thai culture. Learning about how other people live is one of the reasons why he decided to obtain a major in geography, Schwartz said.

Schwartz is a part of six non-governmental organizations, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. His goal for the next five years is to start his own TV show to send his message out to more people. He said he believes tangible solutions have been found to save our planet, but there is still work to be done.

“We still have to change on the inside in order to make the solutions possible.”

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