This is my final summer internship blog post, but my work on the sustainability book project is continuing to grow and evolve. Final edits are still in process for both Laura Kay and Sedelia Rodriguez’s articles. Additionally, I have started a third article in cooperation with Professor Mailloux and Professor Maenza-Gmelch who are working on a lead sampling project with the students in their class.
As I meet more Barnard professors, I am struck by the dedication and effort they put in to incorporating issues of sustainability into their curricula. This effort is motivated, for some, by a feeling of moral obligation. Professor Kay explained to me that, when she started teaching, not all professors in environmental science taught climate change; in fact, one professor even denied its existence outright. She began include climate change in her curriculum because she wanted to make sure that students received accurate information - what they did with that information was up to them.
Ideally, learning about issues of sustainability will motivate students to affect change. Talking with professors has given me hope that sustainability-focused curricula can lead to students taking action. For example, Professor Rodriguez talked about a student who, after studying carbon sequestration in the classroom, spent her senior thesis studying rocks near her hometown and investigating the possibility of doing carbon sequestration in her area. Professor Rodriguez also talked about students who have gone on to teach sustainability themselves, sharing their love for the natural world with younger students. Professor Rodriguez hopes that learning about the natural world will cause students to appreciate it more and want to fight for it. As she says in her article, “Knowledge becomes a vehicle for activism”.
The purpose of sustainability-focused education has been on mind as I think about my own role as an educator. I plan to teach STEM subjects to elementary students after graduation. I want to teach students about their local environments and help them see the difference that their actions can make. If students start thinking about environmental issues in elementary school, I hope it will inform their thinking for the rest of their lives.
Over the past month, Professor Kay, Professor Rodriguez, and I have made significant progress on our articles. Professor Kay and I now have a completed interview transcript which is further undergoing additional edits. Professor Rodriguez and I completed our interview over two sessions and are now working to fill in the gaps of our transcript with additional data and information.
I now feel that I have a better sense of my role as an editorial intern. I am here not to serve as an actual interviewer, but rather to help the professors organize their thoughts. With this better understanding in mind, I approached the interview with Professor Rodriguez by first brainstorming an article outline with her. We then conducted the interview in smaller chunks, and I reorganized and edited her responses into the article outline. During interviews, I’ve noticed that it’s easy to get off track and begin discussing topics that, while relevant to the interview question, do not fit within the structure of the article. By sticking to the outline, I noticed that we were less tempted to get off topic.
Through this process, I am learning so much not just about writing and working as a collaborator, but also about the fields of astronomy and environmental science. The connections between these scientific disciplines especially stands out to me. In order to understand Earth’s climate and the current changes it is undergoing, it is important to understand how climate works on other planets and how Earth’s geological history has shaped climate. I realized how much my understanding of climate change had improved through this process through a discussion with my fourteen year old niece last weekend. We were discussing the merits of vegetarianism including cattle’s effect on climate and she asked me point blank “what is climate change?”. I was able to provide her with a detailed, well-thought out answer about rising carbon dioxide levels and the difference between climate change historically and current climate trends. I realized that I would not have been able to provide her with this amount of knowledge before the beginning of the summer.
Moving forward, I need to work on my biggest challenge in this process: time management. Working independently means that I need to set time out to work on this project, and working as a collaborator means that I often have a lot to do after me and the professors meet, and then not much until they have looked at my work and expressed their opinions. With summer travel, it has been difficult for both of us to stay on a schedule and complete work in a timely matter. I hope that, when we are all back in New York as we will be next week, it will be easier to communicate and speed up the editing process.
This summer, I am assisting as an editorial intern for a collection of scholarly articles focusing on teaching sustainability and environmentalism. I am primarily focusing on two chapters by science professors at Barnard which will be written in interview format with me as the interviewer. The first chapter, by professor of astronomy Laura Kay, details her experiences with including climate change in an introductory astronomy curriculum and the impact she hopes these discussions will have on her students’ worldviews. The second chapter, by professor of geology Sedelia Rodriguez, focuses on the environmental impact of volcanoes and discussion strategies for getting students to engage with course material in meaningful and creative ways. In both cases, we are starting the articles with a more broad discussion of how the field of astronomy and volcanoes relate to climate change and sustainability, respectively. We are then connecting these discussions to the professor’s experiences designing curriculums for undergrads that incorporate issues of sustainability.
Two weeks ago, I met individually with Professor Kay and Professor Rodriguez. These first meetings served as brainstorming sessions, allowing us to get a sense of what each other expected from the article. These preliminary meetings before the interview were very necessary. Professor Rodriguez and I especially benefited from the chance to brainstorm and structure the interview. We discussed incorporating more discussions of teaching practices into the article, and I think that I helped Professor Rodriguez successfully connect several seemingly separate ideas she wants to incorporate into the article.
As the interviewer, my work will strongly influence the structure and focus of each article. In addition to brainstorming interview questions, I am also responsible for transcribing the interview and doing much of the transcript editing. Over the course of the meetings, I realized what strengths I bring to the table. I am not familiar or experienced with either of the professor’s scientific fields; I have taken only one astronomy class and the most I know about volcanoes comes from discussions about igneous rocks in 8th grade. However, I do know a lot about educational strategies from my education coursework and fieldwork experiences, and I am fairly knowledgeable about sustainability and social justice work. Additionally, I know what it’s like be an undergrad student in a science classroom, and I think that my experience will allow for an interesting perspective in these scholarly articles about undergraduate teaching.
This Wednesday, I conducted and recorded my interview with Professor Kay. I came prepared with an interview outline and a list of questions. My role was simple: I asked the questions and listened to Professor Kay’s careful and well-spoken answers, making sure that my phone’s recording app caught every word. I have now began the more difficult part of the process: transcribing. Copying down the words from the recording is simple, but each sentence written requires me to make small decisions. The way one speaks differs significantly from how one writes, so I am continually make small edits to grammar, word choice, and sentence structure. Then, the edits to content will begin, with Professor Kay and I deciding which parts of the interview are superfluous and which can be expanded upon.
I already feel that I have learned so much from my first couple weeks on this project. I am learning how to balance the roles of leader and follower. I organize the meetings with the professors and have an agenda for what I hope to accomplish with each meeting, and I provide feedback about their ideas and offer suggestions about the direction of the articles. Yet, I am constantly aware that these professors are much more experienced writers and researchers that I am and are experts in their respective fields. Their expertise can be intimidating, but the professors treat me as a valued contributor, and I am learning to offer my opinions with confidence.