Today was the first day of the first time I’m teaching Advanced Environmental Sustainability. I’ve had three semesters of what we call EES–Exploring Environmental Sustainability, a class I proposed and designed myself two years ago. I was nervous and excited–nervous because I’m team teaching this class with our Environmental Studies teacher and I’ve never teamed before, and excited because all the kids were returners who had done well the first time around.
Our new class is going to focus on one area of sustainability–energy. We’re going to look at energy resources, how consumer choices, public policy, and politics influence our energy consumption, how building construction interacts with energy, and how energy use can contribute to pollution. Today, we just had a review. It has been a year since a few of my kids had taken our intro class, so we wanted to see what they would remember. Once we got going, it turns out they remembered a lot. They were able to name several renewable and non-renewable resources, describe greenhouse gases and how they contribute to climate change, and talk about where we get most of our energy from. They knew several of the plusses and minuses to each type of energy and where some of it comes from.
We then shifted gears to take advantage of a timely topic: tonight’s Iowa caucuses and different candidates’ platforms when it comes to energy and the environment. I was mildly surprised to find out that not only did my students not know the caucuses are tonight, but they didn’t know the significance of the caucuses, and a few even thought that you had to be a current or former senator to run for president. We talked about how a caucus works (since yours truly caucused in Iowa in 2004 right before I moved to St Louis) and the different people who were running. Then: homework.
Each student picked a different candidate and must find out, using Grist’s Candidate Guide and the League of Conservation Voters Presidential Profiles, what that candidates energy and environmental platforms are. They also had to find out the results of the caucus before class tomorrow and see how their candidate did. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about energy policy and see what all the fuss is about, looking at carbon taxes, cap and trade systems, energy independence, and the other buzzwords of the campaign.
The most interesting part of today’s class was realizing that over the past two years I’ve taught my class, a real paradigm shift has occured in sustainability awareness. Talking to my kids, the ones who were in my very first class really noticed how much more “green” stuff is out there now–how it is a part of the public consciousness like it never has been before–than there was when they first heard the phrase “environmental sustainability”. This was truly inspiring and rewarding. When we are a part of a change that seems to happen incrementally, it’s a pleasant surprise to see just how far you’ve come in hindsight.
[This post was written by Kelli Best-Oliver]