The climate crisis is a global emergency that requires, in the words of UN scientists, “unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” Or as Greta Thunberg, founder of the global student strike for climate movement, says, “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change, and it has to start today.”
For educators this means it is no longer enough for our students to simply understand the science of climate change, or how the climate crisis currently affects people and places around the world. If we focus only on the causes and effects of the climate crisis, then we miss out on the story of students organizing school strikes for climate across Australia and Europe. We miss out on how protests at Standing Rock have inspired a generation of new activists, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We miss out on the imaginative responses to the climate disaster that have grown out of communities across the world such as Casa Pueblo in Puerto Rico.
We wrote this mixer to highlight some of the stories of climate justice activists, especially young people, who are organizing toward climate action. We chose roles that bring together various strands of the climate justice movement, and that highlight the broad coalition of groups are working toward the goal of a just transition — including people who students might not recognize as climate activists.
By bringing the story of the climate justice movement to our classrooms, we create an opportunity for our students begin to see themselves as part of this movement — as activists — capable of creating the change that so often feels out of reach.
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I use the lesson, Meet Today’s Climate Justice Activists: A mixer on the people saving the world as part of my unit on climate change. In my unit, we asked “what is justice” and what it means in regard to climate change. One of the goals of our school is for our students to “take action,” so this lesson gives them role models on how to take action in regard to climate change.
I used it with three of my classes, 125 students total. The students responded well to playing roles including Eve Miller, Harry Smiskin, Victoria Barrett, AOC, Kathy Jetnil-Kijner, Mishka Banuri, Linda Garcia, Hannah Jones, Simmone Ahiaku, Henry Red Cloud, Joanna Sustento, Lucie Atkin-Bolton, Greta Thunberg, Arturo Massol-Deya, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
The directions in the lesson were helpful in making the time productive, and I liked the concept of a mixer as the setting for the lesson. At my school, we use a variety of strategies from “The Strategic Teacher” and SRI, but I have never used a mixer before. It was a nice variation that added novelty to the lesson structure, and the students responded well to it.
Note: The teachers who wrote this lesson would like feedback from fellow teachers in the Zinn Education Project community before it is finalized.
Send your feedback after using the lesson to: www.zinnedproject.org/share-your-story You will receive a climate justice book in appreciation.
We will alert you once the authors have received enough feedback to make revisions and to post this lesson in our standard layout.
Find more stories of climate justice activists in the Teen Vogue (January 3, 2020) article, 9 Climate Activists of Color You Should Know.