Feedback: Talking About Global Warming
Helping students become part of the environmental solution.
Talking the Talk
Over the past nine months, I, too -- for the first time in my life -- found myself in front of middle school and high school students talking about climate change as part of Al Gore's Climate Project ("Truth and Consequences: Teaching Global Warming Doesn't Have to Spell 'Doom'," October 2007). The students have been hearteningly engaged in the content of my talks, and especially in what they can do.
Like the essay's author, Kevin Sweeney, I have been giving them a short list of recommended actions (although none quite as challenging as parsing the family's energy bill). The truly gratifying thing is that some of their parents have contacted me after the fact to let me know that their child acted on the recommendations, the most important of which is to call a family meeting to discuss what the family should be doing to become part of the solution.
I want to thank Kevin Sweeney for this insightful, creative, and constructive response to teaching younger students about climate change. I agree that climate change is a serious issue that should be approached carefully with younger children.
The nonprofit organization GLOBIO, in collaboration with Ranger Rick magazine, develops free online educational resources and learning activities that encourage joy and hopefulness in young children on topics concerning nature and the environment. We have guidelines that ensure that our children's programs are positive, encouraging, and sensitive to our audience. Rather than imposing our values on children, we encourage kids to find their own values through our leadership, support, and example.
Stop Blaming, and Take Action
I wish people would quit arguing about whether humans are responsible for global warming or whether it's even a reality. Regardless of the truth of either of those assertions, there are plenty of undisputed reasons for our country to have a crash program to promote conservation of resources and develop alternative energy: health problems, the dwindling of finite resources, the ever-increasing world population, increasing energy prices, and burgeoning demand for energy.
This fall, my elementary school organized an environmental team (with staff and students). We're starting with a recycling program and education about ways to cut down on waste, but we have harder goals in mind -- such as persuading our school district to quit using throw-away styrofoam trays (which will never decompose) in the cafeteria. I shudder to think of the number of them that go in our landfill each day, and our garbage bills have recently gone up substantially because we had to open a new landfill. Most people have no idea how many ways and to what extent each of us is negatively impacted by our wastefulness, consumption, and pollution.
Journey North is another fantastic online citizen-science project ("Kids Count," October 2007) for students. The initiative enables students to monitor the wave of spring as it unfolds. Students track migration patterns of monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, whooping cranes, and other animals; the blooming of plants; and changing sunlight, temperatures, and other signs of spring.
They share their local observations with classmates across North America and beyond, and look for patterns on real-time maps. As they put local observations into a global context -- and connect with field scientists -- participants are better prepared to explore indicators and implications of a changing climate.
Those interested in transforming trash into art ("From Trash to Treasure: Reusing Industrial Materials for School Art Projects," October 2007) might also be interested in the type of projects on which I have collaborated. Along with artist JoAnn Moran of rePublicArt, in New Haven, Connecticut, we work with schools, communities, conferences, and other adult groups to involve the public in creating public art -- art by the people, for the people.
These projects typically transform recycled vinyl billboards -- which are usually tossed out -- into lamppost banners, murals, and large cube installations. The participants, who are often students, generally create the designs and paint the final product, which is then displayed in public, such as hanging banners on Main Street in one's town.
These projects are great, because they link what is happening in the school to the broader community and contribute something to the creative development of that community.
We Are Not Alone
I just wanted to express my surprise that there are so many of us teaching from wheelchairs ("The Advantage of Disadvantage: Teachers with Disabilities Are Not a Handicap," September 2007). A couple of years after my spinal cord injury, I reentered the teaching profession, having left it for industry almost fifteen years earlier. I have been teaching chemistry at my old high school in Philadelphia since 1993.
When I got here, I was heartened to see that one of the computer teachers was a quadriplegic. I figured if he could do it, this paraplegic could do it. We provided mutual support until he retired.