June 07, 2021

Climate and the Curriculum

Student leaders take action to infuse climate issues in teaching and learning
by Corrie Martin

A yearlong focus on climate change and environmental justice at the Tang Institute culminated in a virtual conference in May with 200-plus students and educators participating.

The Climate Change/Climate Justice: A Humanities Workshop Youth Summit was hosted by the global experiential education organization Envoys, in collaboration with Andover’s Learning in the World (LITW) program.

Mark Cutler, LITW director and instructor in Spanish, facilitated the partnership with Envoys and worked with students in his Spanish 502 class, The Making of a Latino City, to look at issues of climate change and climate justice in the city of Lawrence, Mass.

“It was extremely rewarding to engage in this sort of deep thought in such an interdisciplinary way,” Cutler says.

Pictured: Alice Fan ’23, Sam Gallaudet ’23, Frank Zhou ’22, Salvador Gómez-Colón ’21 Photo courtesy of Colin McNamara-Bordewick ’21

A climate resilience and youth-empowerment advocate, Salvador Gómez-Colón ’21 delivered the summit’s keynote, championing the critical role of the humanities in the climate justice movement.

“By rooting the climate justice movement in the humanities and establishing a deep understanding of the humanistic elements that have brought us to this point, the climate justice movement can make longer strides in creating a more equitable and environmentally just society,” says Gómez-Colón, who has been a key part of Andover’s growing movement to integrate climate teaching and learning throughout the curriculum.

The summit convened attendees from seven greater Boston-area public, charter, and private schools—including some 40 Andover students and teachers—who took part in The Humanities Workshop consortium this past academic year, working to advance interdisciplinary teaching and learning about climate justice issues. Summit participants shared knowledge and ideas explored over the academic year and took collective action on the global climate threat in a hands-on climate lobbying workshop.

Salvador Gómez-Colón ’21, Alice Fan ’23, Sam Gallaudet ’23, and Frank Zhou ’22 are student leaders involved with the Phillips Academy Sustainability Coalition (PASC). This group is helping to lead the charge to integrate teaching and learning about climate issues throughout Andover’s curriculum.

Cutler was “blown away” by the confidence and enthusiasm of students, especially those involved in planning the Lobby Day Activism Workshop: Alice Fan ’23, Sam Gallaudet ’23, and Frank Zhou ’22. During the workshop, participants received specific training in how to talk with legislators about proposed legislation on climate issues in Massachusetts.

“I felt way out of my comfort zone learning how to talk with legislators about complex bills,” Cutler says. “It was amazing to watch our students embrace this opportunity to take real action on issues they are so passionate about.”

The message of the summit and the yearlong Humanities Workshop is clear: knowledge is necessary but not sufficient to address a problem as complex and urgent as our global climate crisis.

“A Humanities Workshop mindset begins in the classroom but naturally extends to real-world advocacy,” says Zhou. “Our programming for the Youth Climate Summit sought to offer students just that.”

Fan agrees. “From my own experiences advocating for a climate curriculum at Andover, a humanities-oriented approach is needed for us to remember that there are real people and real suffering behind the numbers. We have the power to prevent more suffering if we act collectively and urgently now.”

Corrie Martin is an English Instructor and Senior Fellow in Engaged Pedagogy with the Tang Institute.

Categories: Academics

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