Advancing Climate Education through Integrated Activities to Promote Inclusion, Creativity, and Mental Health

A. R. Siders Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware;
Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware;
Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware;

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Dana Veron Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware;
Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware;
School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware

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© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: A. R. Siders, siders@udel.edu

© 2024 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: A. R. Siders, siders@udel.edu

Inclusive and Creative Climate Education Workshop

What:

Mid-Atlantic educators from universities, colleges, K–12, government, and community organizations prototyped activities to promote inclusion of diverse perspectives and value systems, to address climate anxiety and apathy in educators and learners, and to build creativity as a skill in climate change education.

When:

13–14 October 2023

Where:

Wilmington, Delaware

1. Meeting summary

Climate change researchers, practitioners, and educators recognize that the field needs to 1) foster creativity to develop innovative solutions; 2) include more diverse people, perspectives, and knowledge systems; and 3) address climate grief, anxiety, and apathy. The Inclusive and Creative Climate Education (ICCE) Workshop was designed to support a mid-Atlantic community of practice among formal and informal climate change educators, with the goal of improving educators’ ability to foster inclusive, creative, and emotionally supportive climate change education (Fig. 1). In their feedback, participants valued the workshop’s creativity and positive energy and said the workshop changed the way they would engage in climate education, either by adopting a specific activity or by taking a more hopeful, inclusive approach.

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

A visual representation of the goals and activities of the ICCE Workshop. The workshop sought to connect creativity, inclusion and integration of diverse perspectives, and strategies to support the emotional and mental health of climate students and educators. Graphics by ImageThink.

Citation: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 105, 6; 10.1175/BAMS-D-24-0039.1

The 2-day meeting sought to (i) build authentic relationships among participants; (ii) leverage national keynote speakers to reframe and integrate the themes of creativity, inclusion, and mental health; and (iii) actively prototype activities and exercises that could be applied in classrooms or outreach. We began with a conocimiento activity where participants considered their identities, experiences, and motivations and how those shape their educational approaches. Concocimiento refers to a range of cultural activist practices inspired by Brazilian philosopher Paolo Friere, but it can also be used in pedagogy to build knowledge about oneself in relation to others and to systems of power (Sanchez et al. 2022). Participants “loved this activity because it allowed us to get at some of our group’s core values” and said they plan to use it in their programming.

Chief Dennis Coker, Dr. Julie Maldonado, and Dr. Nicola Ulibarri delivered keynote presentations about the importance of inclusion and alternative value systems, the work involved in not just acknowledging but integrating diverse knowledge systems, and the importance of building creativity as a skill. Participants were struck by Chief Coker’s comment that we have taken the environment out of environmental justice. Others reported that Dr. Maldonado’s talk changed the way they thought about climate change education not just as a set of scientific facts to be relayed but a conversation about values. Dr. Ulibarri’s talk on building creativity inspired many participants who intend to use rapid brainstorming activities (like the Crazy 8s activity we prototyped at the workshop) in their classrooms.

Rather than simply describing possible activities, we modeled those activities during the workshop and reflected on how they might be modified for various contexts. Participants made problem and solution trees to identify root causes and branching effects, engaged in rapid brainstorming, practiced gratitude, acceptance, and reframing (e.g., speaking from the future or from a nonhuman perspective) using suggestions from The Work that Reconnects (Macy and Brown 2014). Participants also made zines to process and integrate the insights from the workshop.

ICCE was hosted by the Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub, the University of Delaware Associate in Arts Program, the Newark Charter High School, Delaware State University, and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Committee on Spirituality, Multifaith Outreach, and Science (COSMOS). It was funded by the President’s Advisory Council on University Relations (PACUR) at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). The workshop and networking efforts stem from and build on earlier work by the Maryland–Delaware Climate Change Education, Assessment, and Research (MADE-CLEAR) Partnership funded by the National Science Foundation. A full workshop report, including details on the activities and speakers, is available at https://sites.udel.edu/climatechangehub/icce-workshop.

Acknowledgments.

We would like to thank Erica Chance for her support making this workshop happen and our working committee, Tami Lunsford, Stacy Bartkowski from the Newark Charter High School, Dr. Neri de Kramer from the University of Delaware Associate in Arts Program, Dr. Gulnihal (Rose) Ozbay from Delaware State University, and Dr. Carlos Martinez from the AMS Committee on Spirituality, Multifaith Outreach, and Science (COSMOS), for their support in designing and hosting the workshop. Thanks to all our speakers, and, of course, our gratitude to the President’s Advisory Council on University Relations (PACUR) at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) for their generous funding to support innovations in climate education.

References

  • Macy, J., and M. Brown, 2014: Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects. New Society Publishers, 376 pp.

  • Sanchez, G., J. Jaime-Diaz, and J. Mendez Negrete, 2022: Self/other, other/self: Conocimiento as pedagogical practice. National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Conf. Proc., Online, NACCS, 5672, https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/naccs/2022/Proceedings/8.

Save
  • Macy, J., and M. Brown, 2014: Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects. New Society Publishers, 376 pp.

  • Sanchez, G., J. Jaime-Diaz, and J. Mendez Negrete, 2022: Self/other, other/self: Conocimiento as pedagogical practice. National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Conf. Proc., Online, NACCS, 5672, https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/naccs/2022/Proceedings/8.

  • Fig. 1.

    A visual representation of the goals and activities of the ICCE Workshop. The workshop sought to connect creativity, inclusion and integration of diverse perspectives, and strategies to support the emotional and mental health of climate students and educators. Graphics by ImageThink.

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