Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Informing the Future Leaders

We are in day two of watching An Inconvenient Truth and doing some quick writing about it. There's at least one more section to watch, and then I hope to get into more discussion, question-raising, research, and purposeful writing.

So far I think it's going well, for the most part the students seem to paying attention. Although when I try to bring them together for a class discussion of what they saw, they seem clueless. For example, they didn't understand the significance of the graph showing the coinciding of birds and caterpillars hatching, and therefore the problem when the two events are no longer simultaneous. I had to pull them through that. I'm finding myself having to quickly teach them bits of information as they come up: who Al Gore is, what a documentary is, tectonic plates, canaries in coal mines, food chains, and the like.

They already knew the basics and keywords of global warming, though they couldn't do much explaining of what it all means. It's certainly my hope that they will understand the general issues and stories shared in the film and that we'll read in news articles. But I imagine I'll have to settle for them understanding general gists of things.

Today in my afternoon class I introduced 'coding the text', which is a standard lesson that all reading teachers should do at the beginning of the year. I modeled a little by reading them an editorial about China's willingness to talk about emission limits. When I got to a dense sentence, I showed them how I broke it down (I actually used the word "parse" because I am a nerd like that) into pieces that I (they) could understand. I *think* they got it. I then handed out a couple different articles, in sheet protectors and with dry-erase markers. They worked in partners to read and code their articles. We didn't get to have them finish, but I think it was a good start.

One thing that was a very unpleasant surprise was that their SCIENCE TEACHER apparently doesn't believe in global warming.

Read that again, and be enraged on their behalf.

He 'got to' one of my classes before I did, and now they are skeptics too. I am so angry.

See, I am a West-Coaster, and I am white. I'm also liberal. Those things intensify my different-ness at my school, and most of the time I can deal with that. I understand that I bring a bias to my classroom, and that the other teachers have very different biases.

But I don't care who you are, I believe that discounting global warming is a huge fallacy. And a teacher of SCIENCE being a naysayer to children who have already unknowningly seen the effects of a warmer planet? That is unforgivable.

Regardless of your opinion of the film itself (AIT), it brings to the masses vital information about the current and future situations on this planet. I was just reading in Newsweek that Canada now produces more cranberries and lobster than Maine, and more maple syrup than Vermont. Parts of Alaska can now grow wheat! Things are happening, things are changing right around us, it is real. Now that it's fashionable and the markets are betting on it, corporations are finally getting on the bandwagon. It's already trickling down to us regular folk.

It's rare that we get to do true inquiry in an English class, and while this isn't really hands-on inquiry right now, my point with this mini-unit-project is to get the kids thinking and questioning and reacting and forming their own opinions, beginning to form their future independent selves.

4 comments:

17 more years said...

OK- sit down, because this might shock you- but I am also a science teacher who doesn't believe in global warming. I did a great interdisciplinary project on global warming with our ELA teacher (the kids made an environmental awareness brochure), and from their research, have learned that there is a great deal of evidence supporting and against the concept. Case in point- an article in today's Miami Herald (http://www.miamiherald.com/416/story/77443.html) talks about how global warming might actually decrease the number of violent hurricanes. Also, if you look at long time temperature patterns, there have always been abnormalities in temperatures (warm temps in January, cool in June), going back as long as the National Weather Service has been keeping such records.

Bottom line is this- whether you agree or disagree, isn't the most important thing to teach our kids how to do research and draw their own conclusions?

Rachel said...

I've been showing that to my students, too, but found i could really only show them about 35 minutes of it; the flashbacks to Al Gore's life and some of the science were too esoteric, so I mostly skipped them.

No one's told them that global warming isn't real -- I would go *crazy* if someone did that -- but I have had some of them tell me they're too scared to watch the movie.

Nic said...

Mt brother, who has a Master's in Atmospheric Science and is a meteorologist, isn't 100% convinced it's real, either.

Michael said...

Point of National Pride

Nothing to do with global warming, but being Canadian, I thoght you should know that Canada has always produced more cranberries than Maine and for the last 100 or more years, we've been the Number 1 producer and exporter of maple syrup in the world. We're the second largest landmass in the world, why should it be a surprise that we produce more maple syrup than one of your smaller states? Gosh, you Americans are so myopic sometimes! It's infuriating! We love you anyway. Well, except for your president.
Mike, Toronto