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Second-Hand Clothing Experienced First Hand: Sustainable Consumption through Situated Learning
This activity takes students on a field trip to a clothing donation organization where they encounter the topic of second-hand fashion and the complexity of the industry in a situated and experiential way.


By: Heike Derwanz (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)

Session type: Multiple sessions, Undergraduate level, Small size


  • Sustainable fashion

  • Place-based learning

  • Learning from practitioners


Introduction to the teaching example:

The major objective of this teaching example is to teach students that clothing has multiple socio-cultural functions in addition to protecting people from the weather, making it a multifaceted item. These various functions can be included to discuss or sorted out by using sorting exercises (Derwanz, 2020). They learn about planned obsolescence and the conditions under which clothing can be repurposed.

The exercise incorporates situated learning theory as students engage in a comprehensive learning experience that attempts to prevent the encouragement of negative emotional disturbance and pessimistic viewpoints. This is frequently the case with sustainability education, which renders students helpless and discourages them from taking action. Here, on the other hand, fast fashion and its impacts can be personally experienced with an emphasis on preventative measures.

Students participate in a field trip to a charity store where used clothing is processed after it is collected. They examine each article in groups, determining if and to whom it can be supplied (e.g. sold to a second-hand shop, or donated to a refugee shelter). Students have to journal their experiences, feelings (such as disgust and humiliation), and observations about institutional standards on charitable giving and clothes recycling. Through this procedure, the students are given the opportunity to feel a range of emotional reactions to the act of reusing clothes (from guilt to delight as in "treasure-hunting" for valuable items). This gives students the power to participate in initiatives on donating clothing and discuss the requirements for reusability as a strategy for extending product lifespan and improving sustainability.

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