Temp: 33 F
Wind Speed: 5 MPH
Wind Chill: 27 F
Location: Oxford, Maine, United States of America
Coordinates: 44.1317, 70.4932
Yes, There is Hope. Here's Why.
The very first class of a brand-new elective I am teaching met today via Zoom. I can't stand Zoom. It's not that I don't appreciate Zoom, I do. I love that I can stay in touch with my students, see their faces (when they want to show them), talk to them, interact with them. But, it isn't really the same as being in person where I can read body language easily, where I can entertain, where I can work the room. Teaching is half content knowledge & skills, and half performance art, you know that, right? So here I am, working a Zoom room for the introduction to this class. Not ideal, but this whole class is designed to address two topics I am fiercely excited and passionate about: ClimateThe average weather over a particular region of the Earth. Climate originates in recurring weather phenomenon that result from specific types of atmospheric circulation. policy and geopolitics. And when I'm passionate about something, it's hard to contain myself. The kids feed off the excitement, even over Zoom.
I recently bought a drone. I'm a photographer as well as a history teacher, and an anthropologist and geographer, too. Photography is my storytelling medium, and I've been saving up to buy a drone so I can show aerial views of the places that need to be seen. That are rarely seen. That are rarely appreciated. These places, like salt marshes, are teeming with life. Salt marshes perform tasks for humans that we likely don't think about on a daily basis. I wanted to get my students hooked on salt marshes, if just for today. Not such an easy task, these kids live inland about 40 minutes and some have likely never even seen a salt marsh. But, it's just quirky enough for your teacher to be stoked on salt marshes, so that alone might hook them. I mean, how many people have you met who are passionate about salt marshes? Honestly? So it is with this photograph that I lead my intro class.
Most kids are visual. Most kids want to see what you're talking about. If I were to have attempted to teach an intro class using the terms climate policy, environmental law, and the geopolitics of salt marshes, I'd have lost them. But instead, because I am a photographer and storyteller by nature, I showed them photographs of salt marshes just 40 minutes south of them. I asked them to go to Google Maps to see if they could find the marsh I had a photograph of. I asked them to tell me what animals and plants they predicted lived there. What the geology of the marsh was. They were off to the races, hooked on just one photograph of a salt marsh.
No one cares about these places until they can connect with them. A salt marsh can't be developed into housing, it can't be farmed. My students don't live near salt marshes, even, but now... now they know about them. They're committed to them because they see the adorable birds and animals that live in them. They're curious about them. They want to know how it filters sediment, what kinds of birds live in them, how come there are laws protecting them? From a single photograph on a Zoom class, my students can't stop asking questions... and about salt marshes to boot.
At the end of the class, I went over my syllabus and asked if there were any questions. One of the students unmuted her microphone and asked me, shyly, "Do you think there's hope?" I knew she was referencing the environment in general. I had mentioned the effects of sea-level rise on salt marshes, but I hadn't discussed solutions or mitigations...not yet anyway. I paused for a moment to decide how to answer. My response to her very serious question was simple, "Yes. Yes I do. I think there is hope because we just spent 45 minutes talking about saving salt marshes, and you've never even seen one in person."
I am so honored to be teaching this generation of human beings. I also am incredibly grateful to be alive in a time when I can use technology to help spark a passion in these kids.