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2022 Provost's Teaching and Learning Summit

18th Annual Provost’s Summit on Teaching and Learning: The Climate Crisis in the Classroom  

Climate change is one of the most crucial issues facing humanity. We are already feeling its effects, and scientists and policymakers warn us that these impacts will get much worse if we do not take transformative action now. We know that our students are feeling the pressure: 45% of teens and young adults say that climate anxiety is affecting their daily lives and ability to function, and 70% of young people state that they “worry a great deal” about climate change (Gallup 2018), with members of minoritized communities and women expressing the highest concern. 

UWO has already committed to significant climate action, targeting carbon neutrality by 2030 and forming a Climate Action Committee that will draft a comprehensive climate action plan for UWO. But climate action cannot be limited to changes to our university’s energy use, infrastructure, and purchasing. We must also integrate this commitment into our educational mission.  

As educators, we want to provide students with the context, information, and tools they need to understand and address the climate crisis. This year’s Provost’s Summit on Teaching and Learning will provide instructors with a range of perspectives and resources that will help them address climate change with their students. It will answer questions including how we effectively present such a far-reaching and multi-dimensional issue in the classroom; how we help our students see the impacts of climate change in their own communities; and how do all this in ways that do not alienate our students or cause them to fall deeper into despair.  

Day 1: Panel Discussion: Wisconsin Communities Respond to the Climate Crisis 

One of the most effective ways to combat climate despair is to introduce students to the inspiring actions taking place in their own backyard. Join us to hear from practitioners and activists about how Wisconsin communities are working towards climate resiliency, and discuss implications for teaching and learning for our students.

Moderator: Dr. Stephanie Spehar, Director, Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations, UW Oshkosh

Panelists: Tom Kenote Jr., Director, Sustainable Development Institute, College of Menominee Nation; Sarah Lloyd, President, Columbia County Farmers Union; Rafael Smith, Climate & Equity Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Day 2: Panel Discussion: Education and Activism in Teaching Climate Change (and other difficult subjects) 

Climate change is an issue that is deeply connected to sensitive political divisions, and misinformation about climate change is widespread. Furthermore, discussions of climate change cannot be separated from policy implications and the clear impetus for immediate action by leaders- action that must be compelled by pressure from citizens. As concerned instructors and citizens, how do we walk the line between education and advocacy in our teaching? This interactive panel of experienced teachers will discuss how to navigate climate change and other highly politicized and emotionally charged issues in the classroom.

Moderator: Dr. Jim Feldman, Director, Environmental Studies Program, UW Oshkosh

Panelists: Dr. Andrea Dutton, Dept. of Geoscience, UW Madison; Dr. Erin DeMunyck, Geography Dept, UW Oshkosh/Fox Cities Campus; Dr. Heidi Nicholls, Department of Anthropology, Global Regions, and Cultures, UW Oshkosh/Oshkosh Campus, Dr. Kyle Steele, Leadership, Literacy, and Social Foundations, UW Oshkosh/Oshkosh Campus 

Day 2: Earth Charter and Provost’s Summit Keynote: “The View from Here: A Geologist’s Perspective on Living Through Climate Change,” Dr. Andrea Dutton, Dept of Geoscience, UW Madison  

MacArthur Grant-winning Geoscientist Andrea Dutton will discuss how her journey as a scientist was born out of curiosity and wonder. She wanted to know more about the world - where it came from, how it got to be this way, and how we can live more sustainably on this planet.  This drew her to study Earth’s past climate as a means of improving our understanding of how it might evolve in the future.  As a geologist, the perspective of deep time provides a powerful lens to view the changes that we are living through today and where we may be headed in the future.  She will share this perspective to outline the scale of the challenge we face and what we can do about it.

Day 3: Emotions and the Climate Crisis in the Classroom  

We already know that students are struggling with ecoanxiety and climate despair, and that a “doom and gloom” approach to communicating about environmental issues is not effective. How do we balance the need to present the realities of the climate crisis with the equally important call to support resiliency and hope in our students (and ourselves)? A panel of experienced instructors and students will discuss how to address anxiety and overwhelm and support productive responses to the climate crisis.

Moderator: Douglas Haynes, Professor of English, UW Oshkosh

Panelists: Dr. Tracy Slagter, Political Science Dept, UW Oshkosh/Oshkosh Campus; Dr. Misty McPhee, Env. Studies Program, UW Oshkosh/Oshkosh Campus; Emma Hurst, student panelist; Jaden Zurn, student panelist


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