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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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