Jesslyn Mullett teaches middle school math and science in Marlboro, VT, and attended this year's VEEP/NHEEP Summer Institute. Perhaps you, like Jesslyn, have been wondering how to kick off the year, incorporate all you need to teach (including climate change), and still focus on joy and meaningful solutions.
She writes,"I went from feeling anxious about my year (I've been a teacher for years, and have taught some science/STEM before, but I have some standards to teach this year I'm not as familiar with) to feeling MUCH MORE CONFIDENT about what we'll do and how we'll do it. On top of that, what we're doing is now connected to the standards, feels joyful, and is part of what needs doing in the world. SI (Summer Institute) had a big impact on my thinking - that integrated type of thinking - and I couldn't be more grateful. Thank you so much for a really wonderful and transformative class!"
Thank you, Jesslyn, for your hard work and for the fantastic climate action project you're working to kick off. Here is a snapshot (in her own words) of how Jesslyn is planning out her first few weeks to integrate climate action into her curriculum. We hope you will feel inspired by her project and her passion, and maybe gain a few ideas about how you're kicking off your year, too!
· Essential Question: How does the way I get to school impact whether or not _____ ? (Fill in the blank with a thing I like to do that depends on the natural world).
· Follow-up question: And what can we do about it?
The big goal of this project is to help [...] our entire school community recognize that local transportation choices do affect climate change, and raise their awareness of : 1) these impacts and 2) their individual & community’s data about transportation to and from school over the course of the school year. Over time, we will also publish [perhaps in our weekly school newsletter] students' reflections from our investigations in class, discussions about the data, and recommendations for actions we might take to reduce emissions from our transportation to and from school.
· Phenomena/ Initial Activities: Data collection/analysis about transportation to school + time spent outdoors and on Mount Mansfield
Data Collection: [We'll collect data] in math or science class at the start of the school year. The goal is to collect data from our entire school population on how they get to school (car, suv, truck, bus,... if private vehicle, how many school kids were in the car? Carpool or not?). This includes staff. In math class, we’ll use this data to make part:whole ratios and calculate percentages. Students will use these data to create pie graphs to illustrate the data. Then we'll look at the VEEP transportation graphs about emissions related to transportation to school. What do you notice? What do you wonder? Discuss, record responses. Individuals write a reflection of their own observations and thoughts about the topic.
Time Outside: [I've] decided to start our school year doing things intended to help students get comfortable and engage with and in the natural world. I want to go into it via their senses, by being in nature, spending quiet time there, looking. I want to provide them opportunities to see and feel their relationship to it. We’ll begin with Sit Spots and Science Journals, building fires, and heading out for a trip to Mt. Mansfield where we’ll continue these practices at the ridge (where there are so so so many tiny and interesting little beings - I think of the alpine environment as a fairy house type of landscape, where every being is small, scraggly and wise).... My goal is to continue to ground our work and our joy in our relationship with the earth."
· Next Steps: I'll be working with VEEP to develop specific lesson or activity ideas related to my student's questions. Here are some questions I anticipate:
· How can we get folks to use more efficient means of transportation?
· Does this data stay the same or change throughout the year?
· What affects the transportation choices folks are making?
· How might we incentivize students/families to make more efficient choices?
· How can we educate students/families about the efficiency of their transportation choices?
· Why does this matter?
· How much does this REALLY affect climate change?
We can't wait to see how this project unfolds! If you would like action project support, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see how we can help you achieve joyful climate work in your classroom, too!
Energy Educator & Action Project Advisor