[PeDAGoG] A discussion on TACC about teaching climate change

singhvan at rcn.com singhvan at rcn.com
Thu Jun 23 09:00:23 CEST 2022

Dear All, 
I thought I would share with you the notes of a recent discussion of the pedagogy subgroup of Teachers Against the Climate Crisis (TACC). So, with their permission, here is the 1.5-page summary. We would appreciate your thoughtful comments. 
With best wishes, 

Meeting Notes for June Meeting of TACC Pedagogy Subgroup 

Date: June 11 th , 2022 

Topics discussed: sharing experiences teaching climate change, what approaches worked, what were the challenges; also, possibility of holding a workshop/ knowledge exchange for educators interested in teaching climate change. 

Attendees : 8, of which 7 are university educators, three from the natural sciences (two in physics, one in biology), the rest from the social sciences (political science, anthropology, science and technology studies, environmental history) and one is a writer and activist. Among the 7 university educators, 6 teach climate change through their disciplines, or through a specially designed course. 

Common points on teaching approaches: 

· interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches drawing from both science and social sciences & humanities; including justice aspects like gender oppression and other inequalities 

· Use of narrative in various forms, including case studies, stories from communities, and (in one case) science in the form of story 

· Agreement on importance of bringing in and interrogating terms like the Anthropocene; decentering the anthropocentric 

· Need to understand perspective of students, especially epidemic of anxiety among them; how to teach climate change under such conditions – may help to include resistance movements 

· Need to go beyond national boundaries to bioregions and locales 

· Centrality of the role of power in the climate problem and the need to teach it 

Other points made: 

· Importance of presenting the fuzziness and ambiguities of the world, so students can think for themselves 

· Central question to engage with: “what are we teaching for?” 

· Importance of coming at climate change via oblique approaches through topics like food or money, which students can immediately relate to 

· Using multimedia to present climate information, including videos, games, documentaries, music; 

· Immersing students in Nature such as forest walks and having them do outdoor projects 

· Importance of understanding dominant narratives and how discussions on it can inform climate change adaptation policies in developing countries 

· Having students share their own climate stories, and enabling them to think about India’s possible futures through storytelling 

· Using Vikalp Sangam project to foreground communities 

· Importance of reaching out to government schools; Eklavya as inspiration 

· Importance of teaching the history of energy 

Some Challenges encountered: 

· How to do interdisciplinarity well – working with complexity without oversimplifying 

· Access to climate science essentials for social science and humanities teachers 

· Students’ anxiety issues 

· Students’ acceptance of corporate power and control 

· Earth science and science educators’ ignorance of importance of social justice in connection with climate 

· Structural barriers in formal institutions that prevent climate change education, for example - generally science students do not learn about climate change unless they take Earth or environmental science classes; lack of holistic learning. 

BRIEF Discussion on What a Workshop might look like: 

· Structure suggested: 3-4 hours on Saturday; start with narratives including teachers’ own stories; end with something tangible that teachers can immediately use in their classes 

· Who would take it? Original idea was school teachers but some agreed that it would make sense to start with college teachers from different disciplines; must include science educators also, since other than Earth sciences, science courses do not include climate change; could do a second workshop with school teachers; alternative idea to have a mix of school teachers and college teachers in first workshop 

· Context – find out what’s already being taught and how; generally environmental science courses at university level while mandatory are undervalued (being pass courses); Delhi government is likely to be open to climate change teacher workshops for government schools. NOTE ALSO – recently reported NCERT decision to drop several climate, environmental and social justice topics from curricula of class 6 – 12. 

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