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Climate Lessons (117)
Climate Lessons provides tools, resources and reflections on climate change education for educators and communicators of climate change. This blog is posted to weekly with an educator audience in mind.
Note: This is part of a regular series of posts focused on integrating literacy and climate science and energy issues. The posts are a basis for or based on discussions in the "Not So Serious Climate and Energy Book Club." The book club is sponsored through ICEE: Inspiring Climate Change Education Excellence. Book suggestions, (especially hopeful ones!) are welcome in the comments area below.
Please join us for discussion of Flight Behavior this month! More information below.
I often joke that Barbara Kingsolver writes her books just for me. In my wandering, long-term relationship seeking 20’s I read The Bean Trees and Animal Dreams. As I developed my awareness of politics and social justice, Small Wonder and The Poisonwood Bible came along, and when I had begun my career integrating biology, education and a love for the wilderness, Prodigal Summer was published. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle sits on my shelf as inspiration and a reminder that I can always just make that jump off the grid if I so choose.
I have always loved Kingsolver's use of language and her ability to elicit a sigh or a "wow" with just one sentence of absolute beauty. As she has matured as a writer, her works of fiction have become much more than just stories, but have sought to educate her readers about something. Her commitment to this kind of fiction is demonstrated through her established of the Bellwether Prize, which was created to "promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships."
With her latest book Flight Behavior, Kingsolver truly outdid herself writing ME, a fiction loving climate change educator, a book of fiction about climate change. The story is told through the eyes of Dellarobia Turnbow, a young mother with a yearning for something more from life. Flight Behavior takes the reader to the rural southeastern United States where a strange phenomena has occurred making the Turnbow farm of national scientific interest. Monarch butterflies, turned off their migratory course for unknown reasons, have congregated in the slated to be logged out woods above the farm and a research team of scientists led by Dr. Ovid Byron set up a lab to discover clues that might tell them why.
There are a number of directions I could take in this review. I could spend time critiquing Kingsolver's sometimes forced, but always accurate, approach to integrating the climate science. I could also talk about her portrayal of small town rural life which some reviewers have called patronizing, yet much of which seemed well done as I remember my former life in a small town as an environmental educator trying to make friends with "townies". There are also pages of quotes I could list that I found so lovely my copy of the book is practically entirely underlined. Professionally, I appreciated Flight Behavior's snapshot of the struggles climate change educators face when up against a media focused on the news cycle, an education system that often doesn't provide students with a real understanding of science and the polarization of political parties today. What resonated most with me, however, was Kingsolver's spot on description of the grief and sensation of loss most of us in this business of climate change education, communication and science carry around daily.
Kingsolver describes this grief and loss from the perspective of scientist Ovid when he comes to the realization that the majority of monarch butterflies in North America are on the Turnbow farm and at great risk. She writes, "The one thing most beloved to him was dying. Not a death in the family…but maybe as serious as that. He'd chased this life for all his years; it had brought him this distance…Now began the steps of grief. It would pass through this world…while most people paid no attention." Dellarobia also goes through this journey of grief as a mother becoming more aware of the impacts of climate change. "Dellarobia felt an entirely new form of panic as she watched her son love nature so expectantly, wondering if he might be racing toward a future like some complicated sand castle that was crumbling under the tide. She didn't know how scientists bore such knowledge. People had to manage terrible truths."
The management of these "terrible truths" is one of the biggest challenges I face as a climate change educator and as a parent. In Flight Behavior I find that once again Kingsolver had written ME a book that helps me feel less alone in my grief for the changes facing our planet and that demonstrates the powerful role literature can play in bringing climate change into the public conversation.
Book Club Discussion Update February 28, 2013
In our book club discussion about Flight Behavior on February 28, we were lucky enough to be joined by special guest Dr. Karen Oberhauser, Monarch Butterfly researcher and source for Kingsolver's novel. Overall she enjoyed Flight Behavior and found that the content on monarchs was fairly accuate, minus a few inaccuracies including Kingsolver had mixed up the actual way to identify male and female monarchs. She thought the choice of monarchs as an organism to learn about climate change was good because researchers do have a sense of how they might respond to cliamte changre and because they resonate with people as organisms. Obserhauser also thought that Kingsolver did a fairly good job of representing the three ways that climate impacts organisms. This includes ckaunte as a large scale habitat changer, climate as a signal and climate as a direct cause of mortality or survival.
Please join us for a discussion of Zenith at our next Climate and Energy Book Club meeting hosted by ICEE, March 28 at 4:30PM CST. We meet online and via conference call. To access the webinar go to:http://cires.adobeconnect.com/iceebookclub/ and sign in as a guest using your name. You may use a headset with your computer to access the audio or call +18778659544 .
Registration is open!
For our 2013 Summer Institutes, check out more info below:
Minnesota's Changing Climate Turn on your teaching with the 2013 Summer Institute for Energy Education. Made possible by generous support from MN Center for Energy and the Environment, this teacher-training includes: Dive into the classroom and outdoor components of the Will Steger Foundation's Minnesota's Changing Climate (MCC) curriculum and online classroom. Program includes:
Minnesota's Changing Climate
Turn on your teaching with the 2013 Summer Institute for Energy Education. Made possible by generous support from MN Center for Energy and the Environment, this teacher-training includes:
Dive into the classroom and outdoor components of the Will Steger Foundation's Minnesota's Changing Climate (MCC) curriculum and online classroom. Program includes:
"Cold enough for ya?" Weather in 2012 was wild by any measure, giving Minnesotan's plenty easy conversation starters in the break room at work. Though the Mississippi River did not shut down from the midwest drought as feared, it is confirmed: 2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States.
And weather and climate news begin to creep into 2013, which is off to a concerning start. The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is postponed from February until March due to "snow drought". It has been cancelled only twice in it's 32 year history: 2011 and 2007.
Now, before you share your thoughts on climate change, it may be worth it to watch this interview with Anthony Leiserowitz about "Making People Care About Climate Change". Leiserowitz is the Director for the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
A new tool for educators: The US Dept of Energy launched a new interactive webtool for educators and researchers to explore future energy scenarios. It's called BITES (Buildings, Industry, Transportation and Electricity Scenarios). It is still in beta-testing, and seems more utilitarian and wordy rather than something Steve Jobs would have built. But, hey, we can't all be Steve Jobs.
Want to prepare your students for this world? Registration has now begun for the 2013 Summer Institutes, Energy Education and Minnesota's Changing Climate. Each of these two professional educator-training opportunities aim to give you the confidence and content to teach about the realities of climate change in your classroom. Included in the deal: CEUs, options for grad credit, complete copies of the curriculum and much more. Check out past Summer Institutes in this video!
Many scholarships are available if cost is a barrier to you, so don't hesitate to contact us about this.
Lastly, we look forward to seeing some of you at conferences in the next few months. WSF Education will be at the MN Science Teacher's Association's MN conference on Science Education (MNCOSE) in Duluth and the CERT's conference in St. Cloud. Stop by the booth and say hello!
John Smith & Kristen Poppleton
Will Steger Foundation Education Programs
Siiri Bigalke went to school in Minnesota, but she just returned from a trip to Doha, Qatar to participate as the WSF delegate in the COP18 international climate negotiations. As she bid farewell to COP 18 last week, she did so "With that sense of hope" to "continue to look forward to what the international community of youth climate activists will accomplish after COP18 and into the next year!" (read more from her on the WSF blog)
In the face of the tragedy last week in CT, and those that happen weekly around the world, we look to youth for hope and our teachers for leadership. That's why we do our best to get you resources, and to break down the barriers in your way to creating a more safe and just world. We believe climate literacy is significant to that vision.
Last week we launched our NEW Education Webpage! It's now easier to use. Quickly find the most-requested info in the menus at the top of the screen, such as "Curriculum Resources", "Climate Change Basics" and "Professional Development".
Did you see Chasing Ice last week? Check out this blog post for educator resources after watching Chasing Ice with your class.
Review and comment on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The release of the final public draft of the NGSS is set for the first week in January. We encourage all interested parties to review the draft as individuals or in groups and provide feedback to the Lead States and writers. WSF has helped esnure that climate literacy has a strong place in the standards in part through our consistent participation in the Cliimate Literacy Network.
A few weeks ago Kristen spent the day sharing the Minnesota's Changing Climate curriculum with teachers that are taking part in the University of Minnesota STEM Education's CYCLES program. Teachers spent the day doing activities and learning around Minnesota's biomes and the impacts of climate change. If you are interested in a customized workshop in your education setting, please contact us
Kristen just returned from Berkeley, where she spent an invigorating weekend of strategizing with 50 other climate and energy literacy experts, hosted by the National Center for Science Education. The focus of the weekend was discussing ways of "substantially and measurably increasing climate and energy literacy." Stay tuned for a white paper and next steps.
It takes guts to be a teacher. And we thank you for all the good work you do,
Monday, October 26th, 15,000+ delegates from 195 nations gathered in Doha, Qatar for climate change negotiations and ultimately "to stabalise greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system" (sources: COP18 Website).
This collective effort began in 1992 with the creation of the United Nations Framework Commission on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Each year, these 195 nations gather for the Conference of Parties (or COP) to continue the implementation and evaluation of their agreements and progress. (Here is an interactive timeline to show the complete history.)
In anticipation of the upcoming showing of Chasing Ice, we pulled together some resources that could help extend learning about climate change and ice and why it is important. If you are interested in introducing the implications of warming in the Arctic, lesson 4 of our Grades 6-12 Global Warming 101 curriculum provides a nice overview. If you want get a more in depth overview of the Arctic, check out our online Arctic Community Curriculum.
NEW! Free Chasing Ice App for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. This app shows the before and after images of glaciers and frozen places captured in the film Chasing Ice by National Gographic Photographer Jim Balog.
In the following video, taken on the Will Steger Foundation's Baffin Island expedition, Will Steger talks about glacier loss in the Arctic.
If you haven't seen the news about ice in Antarctica actually growing and the connection with the Arctic. The following videos are great introductions and also offer the chance to discuss how each video introduces the issue. Which video do you prefer? Why?
NASA's Global Ice Viewer gives a nice overview of the status of ice around the world.
November 13th was the first day that students and teachers returned to school in Long Beach, NY after superstorm Sandy. According to one source, 4,000 New York City students and their school staff have been impacted, missing weeks of school. While missing school is certainly not the most dramatic of Sandy’s effects, we stand by teachers and students in our programming and our hearts go out to them and all those affected by severe weather this year.
We know that climate change increases the chances of extreme weather like Sandy that can impact anyone around the world. Climate change has been compared to a baseball player on steroids, batting extreme weather more often with every ton of CO2 emitted. We don't want to stack the odds against us and our children.
In the WSF blog this month, Kristen Iverson Poppleton reminds us that, we believe our students can be heroes of brighter future, even when it's hard to remain hopeful. Furthermore, we know America is poised at an energy and climate crossroads, with the:
“opportunity to not just talk about the reality and urgency of climate change, but to move forward with a clean energy clean air agenda" writes Nicole Rom, WSF Executive Director
We have 200 FREE TICKETS for you to see the acclaimed film “Chasing Ice” - Consider taking your students and colleagues to see the show, which tells the visually stunning story of climate change. Screening at the UPTOWN Cinema, December 7-13 (5 showings each day). Contact us today for tickets and information. Bring your entire class!
For Students: See Bill McKibben speak for FREE and join Minnesota youth leaders to develop statewide activism during the weekend of Nov. 30th with MN350, Yea!MN and MNYEN. It's called "Climate Math that Works. Know young people who want to get involved? Event details and registration info available here online.
However you participate in climate change solutions this month, in or out of your classroom: Thank you.
P.S. Born after 1985, like me? Then you have never lived through a colder-than-average month on earth … that’s right: ever. Read more today in Grist.
Note: This is part of a monthly series of posts focused on integrating literacy and climate science and energy issues. The posts are based on discussions in the "Not So Serious Climate and Energy Book Club," last Friday. The book club evolved out of some informal virtual discussions between a number of us involved in climate and energy education around the country and is sponsored through ICEE: Inspiring Climate Change Education Excellence in Boulder, Colorado. Book suggestions, (especially hopeful ones!) are welcome in the comments area below.
Our October bookclub book up for discussion was the book, Gecko Boy: The Battle of Fracking. Written by 12 year old, Pavan Raj Gowda, the book is a short fictional story about a boy that is given the magical powers of a snail and a gecko to save his town from environmental degradation resulting from fracking. It is written at an upper elementary level, with engaging comic illustrations, but because of supplementary reference material in the back, could be used in a middle school classroom as well. It is a great example of a project middle and high school students could do themselves. A secondary topic in the book is biomicry, as the hero gains powers based on actual traits of the gecko and snail.
We generally liked the book because of the great example set by such a young author, but also because of the good job he does at going through the proper steps for environmental problem solving including; talking to scientists, pleading his case to the owner of the company doing the fracking and appealing to the government for help. The need to have super powers to solve the problem in the end is a great illustration of how students can often feel stuck and unaware of what they can do next. It offers the opportunity for a great discussion on civic engagement and how far someone might be willing to go to bring about change.
Here is a video of Pavan talking to a school about his organization, Green Kids Now.
For the last few months I have had the pleasure of participating in a small informal book club of individuals interested in climate change education. Teachers that join the discussion bring valuable insights on how a particular text might fit into the classroom setting and for what ages. Those of us that focus on supporting educators have been able to develop and think about ways to build climate literacy through literature. All of us are united in a love for reading, and have been happy to justify taking some of our work time to dedicate to reading anything from young adult dystopian novels to non-fiction stories of innovation and solutions to the climate crisis.
One topic that we often circle back to is the difficulty of finding young adult works of fiction that feel hopeful when it comes to climate change. Most of them portray a fairly dire future full of struggle and intense hardship (see bookclub blogs) As someone who focuses on climate change education as a profession, I know that without incorporating solutions to the discussion, students/teachers/the public can be left feeling overwhelmed, disengaged and hopeless.
David Sobel is well known in the field of environmental education for his work in place-based education and his contribution to the discussion about how and when to introduce climate change to students. A few years ago in his article, Climate Change Meets Ecophobia, Sobel argued heavily against using environmental tragedy as motivation and that introducing climate change too early in elementary school was not only a bad idea, but could be detrimental.
It is because of this past work that I was interested to read David Sobel’s recent article in Orion magazine, Feed the Hunger. In Feed the Hunger, Sobel describes the phenomena of a lack hopeful environmental fiction for young adults and attributes it to the “…rising tide of hopelessness, along with rising seas level [that] is lapping at the toes of our young adolescents.” This is in turn making “…our young adult fiction different from the young adult nature fiction of thirty years ago.” Surprisingly Sobel, doesn’t argue that this is bad thing, but instead that by writing about the issues that students worry about every day they become “…somewhat more manageable, more quantifiable.” Even more so he advocates for the importance of books like Hunger Games because of the resilient examples of heroes they provide for our students.
Discussion about preparing students for the future in the warming world generally includes the need to understand the essential principles of climate science and energy literacy. It often also includes a discussion on the importance of developing skills for solutions in the areas of engineering and civic engagement. Rarely does the discussion include teaching our students things like resilience. Integrating fiction and other more literary works into climate change education can be a useful and beneficial way to bring these less tangible, difficult to teach, yet important lessons to students.
In a recent book of essays, called the Thirty-Year Plan, thirty writers offer their thoughts on what we need to “build a better future.” The essays don’t include concepts like an understanding of the greenhouse effect or where our energy comes from, but instead the less tangible, including; courage, empathy, compassion, optimism, humility, and improvisation. Sobel supports young adult dystopian fiction inevitably because “we’re going to need more adolescents willing to be heroic.” By including these books in our teaching we offer an opportunity for our students to reflect on and perhaps even nurture the important traits that are needed as we face the challenges of today and the future.
An aquarium of critters is left to struggle over resources and scientific integrity. Whether you are seeking inspired conversation or simply love a good story, “Fish Tank: A Fable For Our Times” is a unique treat. Genuinely well-written, simple in language and complex in theme: this story delivers on it’s promise to be an “insightful allegory about the human condition, tackling issues of politics and power, limited resources and climate change.” Author Scott Bischke twists together a suite of characters that, while familiar in their attitudes, interactions and dialogue, remain colorful and easy to love. Each character comes to life in the fight for food in a changing planet … er … I mean aquarium. A recommended read for book groups and classrooms of any age.
Note: this particular book review is a staff pick and is not part of the “Not So Serious Climate and Energy Book Club”.
Climate and Energy Literacy Webinar: Eyewitness to Climate Change
Jan 15 - 06:30pm - 08:00pm
Professional Development Programs for Climate Change Education Webinar
Jan 29 - 07:30pm - 09:00pm
Climate and Energy Literacy Webinar: Engaging High School Students in Climate Policy
Feb 12 - 06:30pm - 08:00pm
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