In sustainable agricultural-management education, agricultural ecology enables the postgraduate learner to practice holistic and sustainable agriculture in real life. In recent decades agricultural education has evolved necessitating learners to demonstrate high levels of intellectual capabilities and logistical skills in the ecological management of agriculture. To meet such a need, we developed Managing Agroecosystems at the Orange campus of Charles Sturt University (CSU–O). In this paper we describe the design and rationale in teaching this subject, which sits within a coursework programme in sustainable agriculture. Managing Agroecosystems operates with other subjects that collectively represent and reinforce the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) concept of sustainable development. The Sustainable Agriculture Programme (SAP) at CSU–O has been constructed on the TBL concept. Curriculum of Managing Agroecosystems has been designed to empower the learner to (i) make sense of historical agricultural practice, (ii) apply that learning in issues of contemporary agricultural practice, (iii) recognize and validate those practices that favour sustainability, and (iv) determine those that have not. Teaching strategy of Managing Agroecosystems emphasizes self-directed learning by engaging the learner in a contemporary research challenge: the learner chooses an appropriate local problem and deals with it. To achieve alignment between learning activities and outcomes, we have designed Manag ing Agroecosystems facilitating learners to explore patterns of ecological processes in natural environments and apply that exploration in agricultural contexts. Learners are trained to hone their already acquired research skills by applying systems principles in the evaluation of diverse management options; they learn to infer impacts of systems principles in terms of performance, productivity, stability, social equity, economics, and sustainable management of natural resources. To achieve the most desirable outcomes such as free and motivated learning, self-directed learning reinforced in Managing Agroecosystems fosters capabilities to think, differentiate, and rationalize. Learners practice how to handle and solve unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts. Managing Agroecosystems, seated at the intersection of ecology, agriculture, and management, has been developing employable and intellectually flexible graduates with the capability to develop new solutions to problems, as evidenced in learner feedback.
In this study, we attempted to develop a teaching material about molecular phylogeny, deep time and classification systems to Japanese high school students. On the basis of the pre- and post-test results and the positive impressions of the activity by students and teachers, our protocol was considered useful for teaching these macroevolutionary concepts. Combined use of this activity and other materials (e.g. Westerling 2008) to teach the accumulation mechanism of neutral variations in DNA molecules will promote understanding of the link between DNA and biodiversity.