Anthropocene Learning Lab


Universität Zürich

Science and Sustainability Education

Kantonsschulstrasse 3

8001 Zürich


e:    kai.niebert [at] uzh [Punkt] ch

t:     +41 44 / 634 - 6688

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Fakultät Nachhaltigkeit

Scharnhorststraße 1

21335 Lüneburg


e: niebert [at] leuphana [Punkt] de

t: +49 4131 / 677 - 1968

The explosion in the human population, the mass use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, demands on fresh water, the change of habitats and the dramatic loss of species provide evidence for the central role of mankind in shaping the Earth’s geology and ecology. The way we change the worlds face lead scientists like the nobel laureate Paul Crutzen to acknowledging that we are living in a new epoch: the Anthropocene.

The challenge of making the Anthropocene to become a sustainable epoch bears major questions:

  1. How should we learn in times when our own species is the most dominant force to push the planet towards its geophysical boundaries?

  2. What are the challenges of the Anthropocene in which humans shape the climate and the world’s ecosystems?

  3. How can (science) education respond to these challenges?

  4. How can education be designed to enable sustainable lifestyles towards a sustainable future?

The Anthropocene Learning Lab (ALL) is an interdisciplinary research group that aims to promote a research-based learning on the Anthropocene and the transformation towards sustainability: We understand education as a key to sustainability. Connecting sustainability and science education can play a major role in better understanding the challenges of a society that needs to act within planetary boundaries. Our work focus on the interdependencies of science learning and sustainability science with a special content focus on issues and challenges of the age of mankind.

We take the challenges of the Anthropocene very seriously and respond with the goals of the Anthropocene Learning Lab:

  1. 1.Learning in the Anthropocene goes beyond academic curricula. We cooperate with academic and non-academic stakeholders equally.

  2. 2.A sustainable society does not only take sustainable thinking but sustainable actions, too. But we acknowledge that people’s actions are just partly influenced by reflected and explicit knowledge. Based on this fact we analyse conceptions and internal representations. We work on how to integrate implicit aspects of understanding and decision making like embodied cognition to improve understanding science and sustainability.

  3. 3.We see our work as application-oriented fundamental research: we are not only analyzing but also conceptualizing and actively using our roles as researchers and responsible citizens to improve educational interventions. We analyze educational processes in detail and aim to achieve an implementation in educational practice for our developed interventions and to formatively assess them.

We are a group of educational experts from various professional backgrounds. We work with different theoretical and methodological approaches like laypeople’s and experts’ conceptions of science and sustainability, cognitive metaphor theory, frame theory, educational reconstruction (MER), embodied cognition, or qualitative case studies.

We use these approaches to research on various topics to develop educational interventions for a sustainable future. The topics are e.g. climate change, the German energy transition, competencies for the transformation, nature of science, unconscious judging and decision making processes and drug flows in the environment - just to name a few.

But we have one very important interest in common: by acknowledging the challenges of the anthropocene as one of the major tasks of the present, we dedicate our work to achieve a high quality in teaching and learning sustainability and science. With the Anthropocene Learning Lab we want to institutionalize the search for the questions raised above. We work on academic and non-academic education. We are looking forward to collaborative exchange with practitioners and researchers. Please contact us for feedback and your interest in cooperation.

(c)Universität Zürich

(C) Universität Lüneburg