The Way We Live | Professional development courses

The Secret Lives of “Stuff” -- 100% online course. Engage your K-12 students’ curiosity and help them become problem-solvers in one of The Secret Lives of "Stuff" graduate or recertification courses we offer through AEA Learning Online. 

We see products in grocery stores or malls; we buy them; and we use them. But we don't know the complex chain of events that took place to get us these products. You, and in turn your students, will get a better understanding of the processes involved by investigating product life cycles. You’ll be reminded of the value of recycling. You’ll also discover an often-overlooked solution that prevents environmental problems, and is good for the well-being of individuals and society.

Course includes six modules completed over a five-week period. During four of the five weeks you will develop a mini-unit. Materials introduced are interdisciplinary, classroom-ready and you can tie them to the Iowa Core in multiple disciplines such as literacy, science, social studies and mathematics. The course also addresses science standards (especially Human Impacts on Earth Systems, Natural Resources, and Defining Engineering Problems). Music, art and physical education/health teachers have successfully used the introduced materials and concepts in their classrooms as well. 

Recruit a team of your colleagues to join you to engage in holistic learning! 

April 7-May 12, 2020 Materials:  course syllabus, schedule, rubrics. (Scroll down the syllabus to see the schedule and rubrics.)
June 9-July 14, 2020 Materials: course syllabus, schedule, rubrics. (Scroll down to page 4 to see the schedule, and page 6 for the rubrics.) 
June 30-August 4, 2020 Materials:  course syllabus, schedule, rubrics.  (Scroll down to page 4 to see the schedule, and page 6 for the rubrics.) 

The Secret Lives of “Stuff”: 

  • To register, log into the AEA Learning Online. (You'll need to create an account if you don't have one.)
    Click on COURSES in the Menu bar and you will see Course Search.
    Enter 180450 in the Search bar or the Secret Lives of "Stuff". This will take you to course information and a registration link.  

    *If you don't have an account, you'll need to create one. If you do this, wait overnight and then follow the directions described in Item #1-3 above. 

  • Contact Susan Salterberg, instructor, for more information at


“…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
Review sample mini-units 

  • 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
CEEE In Action
Engaging students in the community