The Way We Live | Professional development courses

Learn how to explore with your PreK-12 students the “stuff” Americans use daily in one of the Secret Lives of “Stuff” graduate courses we offer during the year.

The products we use have life cycles. Materials are extracted and transported. Then products are manufactured, distributed, used and disposed of around the globe – including here at home in Iowa. Study how this “stuff” is a primary source of environmental problems.

Upper level students then can find solutions to the question: How do we reconcile our desire to consume with our desire for a healthy planet? The course includes individual and collective actions.

Course content is real and relevant. Materials introduced are interdisciplinary and classroom-ready. We have designed them so students learn essential skills and concepts from Iowa Core mathematics, literacy, science, and 21st Century Skills. Courses have great ties to the new science standards (especially Human Impacts on Earth Systems, Natural Resources, and Defining Engineering Problems).

We aim to model effective teaching strategies and introduce concepts and materials with passion, enthusiasm and honesty, challenging you to think critically. We also are committed to providing you with practical, engaging resources to help you pique your students’ curiosity, and to help them discover and be problem-solvers.

Find an activity now!


  • The Secret Lives of “Stuff” – June-October 100% online course (Contact Susan Salterberg, instructor, for more information at
    Registration opens Spring 2019--LINK TO REGISTER IS COMING SOON! Click here to see the course syllabus. Click here to see the course schedule. Click here to see the course rubrics.

  • The Secret Lives of “Stuff” – July-November 100% online course 
    Registration opens Spring 2019--LINK TO REGISTER IS COMING SOON!

  • The Secret Lives of “Stuff” – January-April 100% online course 
    Registration opens Fall 2019

  • WATCH HERE for a new course on food, food waste and impacts on climate change. MORE INFORMATION TO COME IN JUNE!



“…It is rare to enjoy a class as much as I did this one. Thanks for a high quality experience that was an instrument of positive change for me…”

“The students realized how much ‘stuff’ they really have, and how all that ‘stuff’ isn’t necessary in their lives.”
“This mini-unit was a hit with the sixth grade kids [as they]… proposed ways they could help make a difference in our school.”
“...the group from my school is using all the wonderful books and ideas we got last year from our class. It ties in very well with a unit in our reading series...we’re still waiting for [an advanced class]!”

Read a summary of workshop evaluation results


Course information for participants currently enrolled in Secret Lives of "Stuff"

Go to course syllabus


  • Susan Salterberg
    Susan Salterberg
    The Way We Live Program Manager

    Susan is passionate about creating a better world for present and future generations. She has more than 35 years of combined experience in communications and environmental education work. Susan envisions a world filled with people who are focused on relationships, service, and experiences - not on "stuff."

    AT THE CEEE: Secret Lives of "Stuff"  /  Reclaim Your Holidays
    ON FACEBOOK: Reclaim Your Holidays / (319) 337-4816
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