Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Good Shepherd Montessori School in South Bend: Exemplary!

Pictured here is a portion of the middle school class I met with as part of my journey to my home town, South Bend, talking about climate change and what can be done about it.

Having taught in the 90s at a K-8 Montessori school here in Indianapolis — Children's House — I felt right at home at Good Shepherd. In fact, I pretty much wanted to move in and live there -- as a student, a teacher or a custodian. Whatever they need.

The students were unfailingly polite and brilliant and fun; they were attentive during my presentation and when I finished, they went around the room and talked about their upcoming projects — projects that embrace all sorts of sustainability initiatives.

It was impressive. These students are engaged in issues surrounding walkable communities, with interests in increasing bicycle access throughout the city. They are working on a green roof, on composting, on salvaging discarded soaps.

In short, they know as much about sustainability as most people twice, three times their age.

This is the future, folks, middle school aged students figuring out solutions around resiliency, mitigation and adaption, while too many of our leaders won't even address the reality of how humans are altering the physics of our atmosphere with carbon pollution.

Sorry to get on a soapbox but one of these kids will make sure my box will be made of repurposed soap.

To paraphrase a great line in Casablanca, I trust this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Whoa, what's this? Hoosiers believe climate change is real!

Here's a screen shot from a Stanford poll that reflect Hoosier's belief that climate change is real. Pretty awesome fodder for our ongoing discussions with the "skeptics" and "deniers." Turns out they are in the minority, tho of course there is much to disagree about otherwise.

Still, if we can agree on the basic science, our differences have a basis in reality.

You can check out the study here. And then dig deeper on Indiana's perspective, along with 45 other states.

A revelatory visit to New Tech High School in South Bend

Despite the fact I've now done three dozen presentations, I am still learning, and my visit to New Tech High School is testimony to that fact.

Heather Nimon, an environmental science teacher at New Tech, had invited me to present to the students there — sophomores, juniors and seniors — in two separate classes.

For the first class, I gave my standard presentation: climate change facts, some bumper stickers, and my new "we have to stop bullying the earth" section. It was fairly successful. The students were largely quite respectful and attentive, but the session ended and I racked my brain for inspiration. How can I make presentation MORE engaging?

Inspiration was sparked when my colleague John Gibson, who had witnessed the presentation, suggested I start the second one with a more personal question: What is the world going to be like when you all are my age?

Basically, 40 years from now.

The answers were a wide range of concerns, from depletion of natural resources to a much warmer planet. Those answers led to the students sharing their sustainability projects they're in the midst of formulating.

Those projects made me realize these students were way ahead of my presentation, that it in fact was only reinforcing what these kids already know — and feel largely helpless about.

So I gave them a choice: the presentation I had planned, or my climate change game show, The Ain't Too Late Show. They chose the latter, and boy am I glad they did.

The Ain't Too Late Show starts with good news each time, and so hope led the way. Then, the questions are fun and informative — and two sets of students competed, with their fellow students' help. It was great fun and a terrific lesson for me. I need to be nimble and assess the level of knowledge of each set of students I present to. If they "get it" then they are also likely to feel — at least sometimes — a sense of hopelessness.

It's much better to provide a little information in an entertaining context, so that we all — including me — have a good time talking about the most important thing of all: these kids' future.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Our first stop in South Bend: Amazing!

John Gibson and I are beginning our tour of northwest Indiana, and if our first stop is any indication, we'll have solved the world's problems by the time we return on Thursday evening.

I had heard of the remarkable Coman family and their efforts to get chicken coops welcomed into the South Bend city limits. We had exchanged emails about our kids' initiative to youth involved in climate change leadership, and after a luscious lunch of chili and home baked bread, we got down to business.

The kids — from a couple different families (see below) — were as well behaved and attentive as you'd ever imagine. It was like I was (happily) trapped in an episode of Star Trek, a future (present) with smart-as-whips kids learning in a decidedly non-industrial assembly line format.

It was inspiring: a small scale learning environment with kids whose age range insured near-peer instruction and exciting collaboration. Plus, they pledged their interest and passion in our growing group of youth, willing to tackle the future head on by engaging in climate advocacy now.

Great ideas came out of this, including the necessity of assembling books about climate change that are appropriate for younger readers. Any ideas?

A wonderful wedding reception band

Those of you who know me know that my favorite thing in the world is not talking about climate change, but... yes, dancing. There's nothing better than dancing and celebrating with people about something beautiful, like a wedding. Here's a little video I shot at a reception on Saturday night. The band was amazing!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Two presentations at Brownsburg High School

Approximately 200 hundred students from Brownsburg High School attended my back-to-back presentations today, set up by a couple of great science teachers at BHS.

I'd originally met a couple of BHS students at the recent EcoSummit2 at IUPUI so I was anxious to see those students again -- and meet some new ones.

I was not disappointed. The students were great! And for once I had the presence of mind to hand out some notecards and get some contact info and feedback from the attendees. A terrific experience all 'round. I hope to return to BHS before the end of the year to consult further with these intelligent, committed teens.

Greenhouse Gas Pollution 101.

Beware songbirds

Ambrose the cat awaits delivery of songbird lunch.

For more on Ambrose

No food will be delivered today.

Coming in for human-provided cat food.

Sam on the White River

Ryan McCracken and I interview Sam Piper on the White River, about his concerns about deforestation and its impact on the climate.