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.