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.