Talking the Talk
Over the past nine months, I, too -- for thefirst time in my life -- found myself in frontof middle school and high school studentstalking about climate change as part of AlGore's Climate Project ("Truth andConsequences: Teaching Global Warming Doesn't Have to Spell 'Doom'," October 2007). The studentshave been hearteningly engaged in thecontent of my talks, and especially in whatthey can do.
Like the essay's author, KevinSweeney, I have been giving them a short listof recommended actions (although nonequite as challenging as parsing the family'senergy bill). The truly gratifying thing isthat some of their parents have contactedme after the fact to let me know that theirchild acted on the recommendations, themost important of which is to call a familymeeting to discuss what the family should bedoing to become part of the solution.
I want to thank Kevin Sweeney for thisinsightful, creative, and constructiveresponse to teaching younger students aboutclimate change. I agree that climate change isa serious issue that should be approachedcarefully with younger children.
The nonprofitorganization GLOBIO, in collaborationwith Ranger Rick magazine, developsfree online educational resources andlearning activities that encourage joy andhopefulness in young children on topicsconcerning nature and the environment.We have guidelines that ensure that our children'sprograms are positive, encouraging,and sensitive to our audience. Rather thanimposing our values on children, we encouragekids to find their own values through ourleadership, support, and example.
Stop Blaming, and Take Action
I wish people would quit arguing about whether humans are responsible for globalwarming 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 topromote conservation of resources and develop alternative energy: health problems, thedwindling of finite resources, the ever-increasing world population, increasing energyprices, and burgeoning demand for energy.
This fall, my elementary school organized an environmental team (with staff andstudents). We're starting with a recycling program and education about ways to cutdown on waste, but we have harder goals in mind -- such as persuading our school districtto 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 ourgarbage 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 negativelyimpacted by our wastefulness, consumption, and pollution.
Journey North is another fantastic onlinecitizen-science project ("Kids Count,"October 2007) for students. The initiativeenables students to monitor the wave ofspring as it unfolds. Students track migrationpatterns of monarch butterflies, hummingbirds,whooping cranes, and otheranimals; the blooming of plants; andchanging sunlight, temperatures, and othersigns of spring.
They share their local observations withclassmates across North America andbeyond, and look for patterns on real-timemaps. As they put local observations into aglobal context -- and connect with field scientists -- participants are better prepared toexplore indicators and implications of achanging climate.
Those interested in transforming trashinto art ("From Trash to Treasure: Reusing Industrial Materials for School Art Projects,"October 2007) might also be interested inthe type of projects on which I have collaborated.Along with artist JoAnn Moranof rePublicArt, in New Haven, Connecticut,we work with schools, communities,conferences, and other adultgroups to involve the public in creatingpublic art -- art by the people, for thepeople.
These projects typically transform recycledvinyl billboards -- which are usuallytossed out -- into lamppost banners,murals, and large cube installations. Theparticipants, who are often students, generallycreate the designs and paint the finalproduct, which is then displayed in public,such as hanging banners on Main Street inone's town.
These projects are great, because theylink what is happening in the school to thebroader community and contribute somethingto the creative development of thatcommunity.
We Are Not Alone
I just wanted to express my surprise thatthere 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 myspinal cord injury, I reentered the teachingprofession, having left it for industry almostfifteen years earlier. I have been teachingchemistry at my old high school inPhiladelphia since 1993.
When I got here, I was heartened to seethat one of the computer teachers was aquadriplegic. I figured if he could do it,this paraplegic could do it. We providedmutual support until he retired.