Every Day is Earth Day: A Letter to My Teacher Colleagues

broken paris broken world 2017
Student- and teacher-designed banner at Environmental Charter High School

Dear colleagues,
As “environment” and “Paris climate agreement” became top news items last week (among Portland white supremacist terrorism and military escalation in Syria, Yemen & Iraq), I was heartened to wake up and spend my Friday at a student-led Earth Carnival.

So how do we authentically connect what’s happening in our classrooms to current events? Our students are hearing about the threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement and forming opinions, with or without the support of the Environmental Charter Schools learning community. We here are constantly redefining “environment” to include the ways we are shaped by our environment (identity development and sense of place), and the ways we influence the world around us (stewards of our community and student-led action).

Sometimes as an educator I forget that my opinions today have been shaped by years of intentional reading, discussion, critical analysis and self reflection. It’s helpful for me to remember that our students are in the early years of a long journey of developing their own critical lens, and that they are shaped by all that they see and experience around them. What is our responsibility as an educational institution to support students in developing the critical analysis they need in order to form their own, grounded frameworks on how to make this world a better place?

And which current events do we deem important enough to teach in our classrooms? Sometimes I don’t even know where to start, there is so much going on at local, national and global levels. But if I believe the classroom is a part of — and never separate from — what’s going on in the world, then I can have a part in collaborating with students to shape the present and future we want to see. Below are just a few ideas you can use in your class time to work with students on developing an analysis around “environment,” or to help extend what you’re already doing.

RESOURCES
Our Climate Our Future 
What Makes Democracy Work
CLEAN (Collection of Climate and Energy Educational Resources) 
The Women Taking on Climate Change
Why the US Leaving the Paris Agreement Isn’t the End of the World
Parsing the Difference Between Education and Indoctrination

ACTIVITIES

Calculate Your Carbon Footprint 
Read the Indigenous Environmental Network Press Release 
  • Read the press release with students and discuss.
  • Idea: Cut the press release into each statement, and students can research the speaker/organization in small groups. What is their mission? What do they stand for? What are they saying?
  • Bonus: Students can create their own 75 word statement.
Draw Environmental Issues in Your Community 
  • Read an environmental book aloud. Discuss some of the issues brought up by the story. Give students recycled paper and ask them to draw environmental problems that they see in their community. Have them share and discuss.
  • List of some environmental books for 3rd-8th grades
Create a Community Map
Hold a Council Circle
  • Council is a restorative justice practice of speaking & listening from the heart. For more details you can join a Council in Schools training, but the basics are to use a talking piece in a seated circle to speak to a question.
  • Question: How are you feeling about the world today?
Show an Image and Use Question Formulation Technique (QFT)
Listen to Current Events Podcasts
Share the Importance of Youth Organizing

ACTIONS

Sign a National Petition 
Design a Class Postcard to Support CA Senate Bill 49
  • California’s SB 49, the California Environmental and Worker Defense Act, authored by Senators de León and Stern, makes current federal clean air, clean water, worker safety, and endangered species standards enforceable under state law if the federal government rolls back and weakens those standards.
  • Read full text of SB 49 with students
  • Create postcards on index cards with message and/or image on one side and mailing address on the other side, or write letters.
  • Send Please Support SB 49 (and why) to:
  • Assembly Member Autumn Burke (District 62) – @AsmAutumnBurke – 310-412-6400 – ‏ 1West Manchester Blvd. Suite 601 Inglewood, CA 90301
  • Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi (District 66) – @AMuratsuchi – 310-375-0691 – 23211 Hawthorne Blvd. Suite 200A Torrance, CA 90505
  • Send Thank You for supporting SB 49 (and why) to:
  • Senator Steven Bradford (CA Senate District 35) – @SteveBradford – 916-651-4035 – 1 West Manchester Blvd, Suite 600 Inglewood, CA 90301
  • Senator Kevin De Leon, President Pro Tempore (CA Senate District 24) – @kdeleon – 213-483-9300 – 1808 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
What is California Doing? 
Make a Pledge
  • Ask students to draw/write their pledge to protect/advocate for the earth and have them take pictures of each other holding their pledge.
  • Share using #GreenAmbassadors

In solidarity,
Sammy

thank you to Danielle Kelsick and Jessica Diaz for advice on how to frame this email

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