Conducting an Environmental Assessment in the Classroom

Sahar Nouredini

Conducting environmental assessments in the classroom can help facilitate discussions about climate change, environmental health and environmental justice.  This presentation reviews 5 online tools that allow teachers to integrate an interactive in-class exercise and discussion of environmental health issues/ policies in their curriculum. All resources shared are very easy to use but have more advanced applications that can be utilized depending on the audience.

“Emergent Strategy and the KAN: A Love Letter to the Network”

Sarah Ray

This presentation will describe the impact of participating in the KAN on my thinking and various aspects of my work – including research, service, teaching, but also the immeasurable and uncategorizable stuff – which I now see as all “frontlines” and “fractals” of change, thanks to our time together.  As a KAN planning team member, I had the privilege of participating in all four workshops, and gained an enormous amount of knowledge about best practices, learned solutions to commonly-shared problems, cultivated “the muscle of radical imagination” with you all, and built relationships and my own network.  The experience emboldened me to more urgently work on projects I suspected were valuable, such as integrating both service learning & community-based education and professionalization into environmental studies curriculum, changing institutional incentives around what “counts” as research in my role as program leader, building courses that serve students’ lives as social change agents, and investing in relationships with my colleagues in other disciplines, units, and institutions.

However, the most valuable lesson for me was what I gained by immersing myself in a book that shaped our workshop process, Emergent Strategy, by Adrienne Maree Brown.  Some of you may remember Abby Reyes discussing the book in her facilitation process. This book has helped me acknowledge the value of all those other efforts, rather than feel burnt out or paralyzed in the face of the scale of the world’s problems and institutional barriers to our goals.  In this presentation, then, I want discuss how this book helped me see the work of the KAN and the work I do in my daily life in radically new ways. From Emergent Strategy, I propose we approach our work in terms of:

– cultivating community and relations (committing ourselves to span an inch wide and a mile deep rather than the other way around)

– valuing conversation over deliverables

– expanding our notion of  what counts as “action,” based on Brown’s nonlinear and iterative view of social change

– shifting toward resilience as a priority over “problem-solving,” in both pedagogy and curriculum development

– increasing appreciation for the theory of the fractal for understanding how change happens and for grasping the power we each all hold

– emphasizing the importance of self-care for ourselves and our students

– shifting curriculum toward affective resilience and emergent strategy as opposed to just content or “marketable skills”

– paying attention to what we want to grow, rather than all the things that are wrong (in life, pedagogy, how we spend our time and attention, in committees and other collaborations, etc.)

– doing work that fuels us.

In what ways might the KAN manifest emergent strategies for the network’s stated goals?  How can principles of emergent strategy help us understand our work, both in and outside the KAN?

The Chico 2030 Project: Climate Forecasting for Everyone

Mark Stemen

For most Californians, the climate issue remains geographically distant, so they can easily dismiss it.  Faculty reinforce this distance in our classrooms when we describe potential climate impacts that are hundreds if not thousands of miles away.  Cal-Adapt has the potential to change that classroom dynamic.  The new climate-modeling tool developed by the California Energy Commission (CEC) now allows anyone to model climate in California by zip code.

My presentation will describe how students in GEOG 506: Community Service in Geography used the Cal-Adapt climate tools to forecast the climate in Chico, CA for the period 2030-2050. Students then met, data in hand, with key staff at the City of Chico to catalog potential impacts to the community and City services. Their findings and all research materials were placed on the web to allow others to continue the project.

The CEC developed Cal-Adapt primarily for use by public planners.  In my class, however, we discovered the tool is also useful in the fields of public health, criminology and creative writing.  Some students used the tool to explore past connections between heat waves and hospital visits and crime rates, while others wrote fictional accounts of the near future using the forecasts available with Cal-Adapt.  This presentation will demonstrate how faculty from across the campus can use Cal-Adapt to improve the teaching of climate change in their classes.

Q & A

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17 replies
  1. Tori Derr says:

    @ Sahar – Thank you so much for posting all these useful sites. I only knew of the first two and will definitely integrate them into my courses!

    @ Sarah – I love how you’ve taken all that you’ve heard through KAN and integrating it in your work. Very inspiring and exciting! And while I wasn’t sold on the book Emergent Strategy at the KAN meeting, now I am!

  2. Tori Derr says:

    Also, Sarah, do you know this book? Steingraber, Sandra. 2011. Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis. Da Capo Press.

    I thought of you today as I was revisiting it for a non-toxic pacific grove group I am advising. Especially the quote: “When Elijah was 4, I made a polar bear costume with the full knowledge that the costume may outlive the species. No other generation of mothers before mine has ever borne such knowledge.” – it is not just affective resilience for our students, but for all of us!

  3. mstemen@csuchico.edu says:

    Hi Everyone, I wanted to share a new teaching tool I found that allows teachers to model climate based on zip code, specifically the zip code of campus. Allowing people to visualizing the local climate 20, 30, 40 years out causes people to ask different questions. I hope KAN participants will take a look at what I found, and I am more than happy to answer questions.

  4. cslown says:

    @ Sahar N.-Thank you. These are exceptional resources- I cannot wait to integrate into K-12 curriculum. Are there any others you would recommend?
    @ Sarah R.- We are exploring adding a wellness outcome to our campus. Could you expand on your self-care and building resilience? How do you envision integrating this with action and leadership on your campus?

    • mstemen@csuchico.edu says:

      I took at look at the EPA site. I think Cal-Adapt has a few things going for it. First is the graphic format. Students really responded to the maps. Second is that Cal-Adapt also looks at Wildfire, Snowpack and Sea-Level Rise, again with the use of interactive maps that let students see the regional impact. Third, it is produced by the University of California for the State of California, for use by cities and counties in the state giving it a level of legitimacy with the institutions we work with closely. Lastly, the state has required municipalities to use the Cal-Adapt data so we have built-in service learning projects across the state for faculty who want to be active in their local region’s response to climate change.

        • eugeneccordero says:

          Thanks Mark for your talk – very nice visuals throughout! I think Cal-Adapt is pretty cool and I could see using it also in some of our middle school materials. And thanks to Corin too for sharing the climate explorer, as I was looking for something that also works outside of CA. Mark. Have you done any pre/post surveys with your students who take your class. I’d encourage it, there are some pretty good instruments around that you can just grab, modify and try. I expect you’ll find your students are much more engaged with the topic after an experience like that. I’d be interested to know if it affects their personal behavior at all. Thanks!

          • mstemen@csuchico.edu says:

            I have my student write weekly so I watch the transformation over the semester. They all undertake personal behavioral changes but I am most impressed by their rising interest in collective action. I find many join the Butte Environmental Council (the local environmental advocacy organization) or Chico 350, or a similar group if they relocate. They come to realize that the most important thing they can do as an individual is to stop thinking as an individual.

  5. ralaniz says:

    Sarah R.
    Yes! Thank you for the video. I would love to be in touch on your various projects, especially the book. Additionally, my own work supports the argument that emotional well-being is critical to social development. Please reach out at the right time.

    Ryan Alaniz

  6. Amanda Baugh, CSU Northridge says:

    Sarah – I enjoyed hearing your reflections after participating in all four area meetings, as well as your thoughts for re-evaluating your to-do lists. It is so challenging to think about taking on the major projects we have envisioned through the KAN, when we know they don’t have the immediate reward of a line on the CV, etc.

    On a different note – you brought up the role of emotions, which is another theme throughout many of these talks. I wanted to share a great article that some might find interesting, on online confessions of “Eco-guilt.” This could be food for thought for anyone interested in affect/emotions, and could promote some interesting class discussions. Here’s the citation, and I can provide the PDF for anyone that can’t access it through your university –

    Fredericks, Sarah E. “Online Confessions of Eco-Guilt.” Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. Mar2014, Vol. 8 Issue 1, p64-84.

  7. John Foran, UC Santa Barbara says:

    A love-letter to my KAN coordinating team member Sarah J Ray:

    Dear Sarah,

    Thanks for the rich talk you have given us above: it bubbles with the energy and excitement at discovery which you brought to that slow-burning fuse, KAN, and which I share, going forward from it now. I also adored Emergent Strategy [https://www.amazon.com/Emergent-Strategy-Shaping-Change-Changing/dp/1849352607#reader_B06XFP9MMC], though I have not taken it nearly as far as you have. I too have come to feel the indispensable, untapped power of emotions in our teaching, our activism, and even in our scholarship, which I now believe must be increasingly public in nature and not confined to a handful of like-minded (at best) specialists.

    I look forward to the book you have described (and would love – that word again that animates us – to collaborate with you in any way on it). I heartily recommend your new blog – Writing at the End of the World – which you were too modest to mention to everyone interested in these issues: http://writingattheendoftheworld.blogspot.com/

    I also share your passion for teaching, and value all the care for curriculum, class practices, and care you express for “affective resilience” of your students. I applaud the multiple, exciting new ideas for teaching that are emerging – that word again – from the collaborations enabled by this KAN, and look forward to its growth in numbers of voices and depth of the conversations.

    Four teaching resources I’d like to bring to viewers’ attention that I have come across in the course of our collaboration are:

    Bill Bigelow and others’ work at the Rethinking Schools website, and the 2014 volume A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching About the Environmental Crisis [https://www.rethinkingschools.org/books/title/a-people-s-curriculum-for-the-earth].

    Carl Anthony and Paloma of the Breakthrough Communities, whose new book, ALL IN: LEARNING ACTION GUIDE FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE, on their work and vision for bringing climate justice education into the Oakland public schools is available as a set of pdf here: http://breakthroughcommunities.info/publications-re-metro-equity-issues/climate-justice-book/

    Erik Assadourian’s brand new edited volume EarthEd: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet [at https://islandpress.org/books/earthed-state-world%5D

    And finally, the exciting work of the students of Big Sky High School in Missoula, Montana, whose symposium, Bring Your Own Brain: Free Us From Climate Chaos, can be streamed here: http://www.freeusfromclimatechaos.org/event.html, and which I wrote some impressions of here: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-07-05/five-days-that-shook-my-world-part-one-the-making-of-a-critical-thinking-community-in-missoula-montana/

    Well, with these gifts, freely offered, I will close this letter, with gratitude – Together We KAN!


    • John Foran, UC Santa Barbara says:

      Thanks, Mark, for showing us what is possible if one has the camera and editing facilities and imagination that your video shows off to such good effect!

      This reminds us that there is a wide range of possible ways to video a talk for a nearly carbon neutral conference, and that, as time goes on, those of us who do more of these talks will become more innovative and proficient ourselves.

      Indeed we have merely scratched the surface of the possible here — we look forward to the many additions to this website to come!

  8. amattheis says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for introducing another useful tool (Cal-Adapt) that can be used as the basis of class activities about sustainability and climate change. It seems like this would be a nice complement to the national Climate Toolkit used by Corin from the Monterey Bay group in her video!

  9. vwong says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for walking us through how you’ve used cal-adapt with your students! How did the Chico city services folks receive the students’ work?

    • mstemen@csuchico.edu says:

      They received it well. It was clear that the City staff had been thinking about the potential impacts of climate change and meeting with the students gave them a vehicle to voice their concerns.

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