Kristen Poppleton, Director of Education
I'm midway through day 2 of AGU- new ideas and information swirling around. I have been thinking a lot about our ENTRF Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate project as I learn about other successful public focused education campaigns around the country.
I head to my first American Geophysical Union (AGU) Meeting next week and plan on blogging throughout the week on the multitude of sessions and workshops I will attend. AGU is an international non-profit scientific association with more than 62,000 members established in 1919 by the National Research Council.
For the 5th year in a row the School of Environmental Studies is bringing a group of high school students to the United Nations International Climate Change Conference. This year it is being held in Warsaw, Poland November 11th-22nd. The COP, or Conference of the Parties, will bring together representatives from more than 190 countries as well as members of civil society from around the world to address climate change.
The Next Generation Science Standards(NGSS) were released this week, including for the first time climate change as a concept deemed integral to K-12 science education.
The Will Steger Foundation was proud to support Minnesota's Green Ribbon Schools selection process and would like to congratulate this year's U.S. Deparment of Education's Green Ribbon Schools program finalists!
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 .
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.
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.
We've had a blast the last few weeks with Bloomington Lutheran and Open World Learning Community students down at Ft. Snelling State Park within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Staff from the Mississippi River Fund, National Park Service and the Will Steger Foundation led students through activities around weather, climate and phenology and the students were able to do a buckthorn removal service project in the end. Our featured photo this month is of Bloomington Lutheran students hard at work. The field trips are funded through support from the National Park Foundation as part of the Parks Climate Challenge. See more photos and learn about the trips here.
We are happy to welcome our new education assistant, John Smith! John comes to us with a background in environmental education and most recently worked with St. Paul Schools as an energy and sustainability associate.
There are a number of great opportunities coming up in November including free public forums around Minnesota with Will Steger and J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy. If you are an educator in one of the communities they are visiting and are interested in sharing any of the work you have been doing with students please send me an email.
Keep up the good work! Please don't hesitate to contact us with questions or to share how you are bringing climate change into your educational setting.
Green Schools Workshops, Presented by the Minnesota Department of Education:
These workshops will provide resources and networking for K-12 administrators, staff, teachers and anyone else interested in making schools more healthy, efficient, and effective. You will see, first-hand, the benefits of green schools and learn about resources available in the areas of green buildings and energy, health and safety, and environmental education.
Dates and locations:
Workshops will be held at Minnesota’s 2012 Green Ribbon Schools National Award Winners
Monday, October 29: St. Joseph – Kennedy Community School
Monday, November 5: West St. Paul – Garlough Environmental Magnet School
Wednesday, November 28: Duluth – North Shore Community School
Cost: None - they are FREE! Clock hour certificates available.
More information and to register.
The Not Serious Climate and Energy Bookclub
Classroom Resources and Opportunities
COP 18 will be held in Qatar and we will be following a delegation of high school students from the School of Environmental Studies that are attending. Discuss the upcoming climate negotiations with your students using our Citizen Climate lesson plans, available to download here.
Thanks to a partnership with Chasing Ice, the Will Steger Foundation will be providing complimentary tickets to see a free screening of the film for educators, youth and key partners in our network. Screenings will be held November 30 through December 4th at the Lagoon Cinema, Uptown Minneapolis. If you are an educator interested in tickets for yourself or your class, please contact me. More information.
News of Note
Just Released from the National Academies of Sciences- Climate Change Education in Formal Settings, K-14.
Frontline will explore the shift in public opinion on climate change tonight on PBS.
ClimateChangeLIVE Education Resources Highlights-Part 2 Webinar
Dec 11 - 07:30pm - 09:00pm
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
You can view our full profile at the Charities Review Council.