Climate Ambassadors Forum Pushes for Climate Education in Andover Curriculum

In celebration of Earth Week last Friday, April 24, Student Ambassadors for Climate Education and EcoAction organized a virtual panel discussion to encourage the implementation of an environmentally conscious curriculum. Serving as one of many annual workshops and online seminars held nationwide under the organization Earth Day Live, students and faculty members formulated future goals of integrating environmental awareness into Andover’s education and programming.

According to Allison Guerette, Campus Sustainability Coordinator, the forum was intended to provide formal exposure to weekly student meetings on climate education, which were previously hosted every Friday after the Climate Cafe speaker series. Guerette believes that with the increasing danger caused by climate change, it is important for students and faculty to acknowledge the significance of the issue by integrating climate education into Andover’s academic curriculum.

Guerette said, “After a month or two of Climate Cafe events during the Fall, some students asked me whether it was okay to host an informal meeting about climate change on campus after the speaker’s presentations. So from there, we invited students to talk about climate education and ways to include climate change pretty much in every classroom on campus. The group started with 30 and then went up to 75 students towards the end of winter, so I planned on continuing this in the Spring by addressing climate change in a more rigorous and formalized manner.”

During the discussion, the group established a general consensus that while many students at Andover currently recognize the existence of climate issues around the world, they are largely unfamiliar with specific evidence and related concepts. In response to this current situation, Claire Brady ’20, President of EcoAction, suggests that climate education at Andover should require cross-disciplinary engagement across all academic departments.

“I think what we talked about is the need for everyone to start recognizing that the climate crisis is intersectional. For instance, while I believe most people are familiar with the term and effects of climate change itself, they might not know how it is related to environmental racism and environmental justice. This relates to our discussion about how climate change education should be interdisciplinary at Andover, since no single subject can cover all of these issues,” said Brady.

Brady continued, “I think that humanities courses can cover subjects such as eco-poetics, the ethics of climate change, but more of just encouraging teachers to assign intersectional readings to students and have discussions with them. Obviously, the STEM courses could go over the science behind climate change and how it affects our lives.”

According to Frank Zhou ’22, a participant of the discussion, certain instructors from different academic departments are already integrating issues of climate change to their courses. Zhou emphasized, however, that the group’s goal of seamlessly integrating climate education into different course materials is yet to be fully accomplished.

Zhou said, “We’ve started a good amount of projects already. The first is [Rafael Kelman, Instructor in Art], who is a videography teacher, and his video class did a final project last term focusing on a prompt in the direction of climate education. This involved a series of readings in order to prime the students in terms of awareness and the importance of the issue. [Noureddine El Alam, Instructor in Math]’s project based statistics class is currently working on projects surrounding climate education, particularly its impacts on the Andover campus and surrounding local communities.”

In order for climate education to be taught on an institutional level, Guerette believes that students, faculty members, and administration should collectively serve as sources of initiation and actively gather to discuss the logistics of climate education. In particular, she noted that any proposed curriculum should maintain a balance between giving the administration and faculty autonomy to establish their individualized climate education agenda and ensuring the coverage of lessons integral to sustainability awareness.

“One of the really great things about Andover is that faculty make their own choices over what materials are taught in their individual classes. But at the same time, we want to make sure that all students are getting a very well rounded sustainability education. So for faculty members, it’s just having the opportunities to try out different pedagogies around teaching for sustainability and climate change. For administrators, it’s helping, working with the faculty to look at overall and think about how we might really systematically integrate this. Instead of forcing the teachers to teach specific content, we would provide themes and the skills that students should really need before they graduate related to sustainability and climate change,” said Guerette.

To allow Andover students to serve responsibly and ethically in their respected career fields later in life, Derek Curtis, Programming and Digital Producer, believes that it is important for students to understand the realistic danger of climate issues to shape solutions for the future. Though Curtis expects that the schoolwide integration of climate education into every classroom will require a significant amount of effort from all groups, he hopes to see more conversation regarding climate change on campus.

“Andover is an institution that trains students who will likely be future professionals, most likely to have a large say in different organizations. That is why they need to leave Andover knowing how important this issue is. When I think about moving forward, nothing happens quickly at any institution as large as Andover. There are a lot of stakeholders that you have to talk to and convince. But I think going forward, the wind we have in mind in the short term is just keeping the conversation going and having more people involved from different departments, different places on the campus,” said Curtis.