World Wide Views on Biodiversity was designed as a day-long event to have citizens learn about, talk about, and vote on issues surrounding biodiversity loss. Over the course of the day, two of the Colorado participants—two middle school teachers—kept exchanging glances from across the room. Sometimes they’d point at each other and nod. At the end of the deliberation, they came up to me and said, “Thank you. You have no idea. You just gave us our curriculum for the whole year. And can you put me in touch with the Science Cheerleader? She’d be perfect to come to our school to get girls interested in science. This was just great.”
Around a week later, I met with those two teachers at Bell Middle School, in Golden, Colorado. It’s been a long time since I’ve set foot in a middle school. Three students were hanging out at a picnic table, laughing, slinging their bookbags around. They seemed impossibly young, but weirdly old: the girls had their hair and nails done, and they were flirting awkwardly with the boy, who sat and grinned as the US flag clanked on the flagpole.
I met with the two teachers and an administrator for the school. We accessed the materials (info booklet and films) on the WWViews website. We talked about how this biodiversity theme could work: The science teachers will teach students about genus and species, setting up hypotheses and experiments; the math teachers will teach about statistics; the geography teachers will teach about where the hotspots are; the civics teachers can talk about government’s role; the English teachers will have students write about biodiversity; and even the art teachers will have students work on the biodiversity theme. We talked about the possibility for bringing in raptor specialists and having the students go out to the field behind the school where hawks live. We experimented with the Encyclopedia of Life website, and I shared biodiversity activities developed by the Boston Museum of Science. “This,” they said, “is perfect.”
During the recommendation session of World Wide Views, virtually every table called for more education, of both children and adults. Faster than I could have imagined, biodiversity is being woven into the fabric of this school’s curriculum. This is happening now, this year, not three years from now. This curriculum will involve many, many students, and World Wide Views on Biodiversity will be the foundation. Beyond the importance of giving voice to the participants, the ripple effects of this event will be felt far into the future.
“Before you leave, I have a question,” one of the teachers said.
“What I want to know, is what can we do to help you? Can our students come to Mines and work with your students?”
I was stunned. I’d never thought about such a thing.
But once these kids get through this curriculum, many of them will know far more than many Mines students. They might have some things to teach my students.
“Let me think about it,” I said.
And I will.
It’s really sinking in now, that even though World Wide Views is over, new possibilities are opening up. Just when I thought I was done, a new collaboration is picking up where WWViews ended.
Sandy Woodson teaches philosophy, environmental philosophy, and ethics at the Colorado School of Mines.
Sandy, how wonderful and uplifting to read your post! Education was also among the most cited component of a national biodiversity strategy recommended by the participants in the Washington DC forum. What’s interesting here is that the collaboration you describe above developed organically. It truly fulfills the amplification and youth engagement goals of the world wide views project, reminding us that September 15th was merely the beginning, not the end.
Along these lines, and also adding to the projects ideas at the Museum of Science Boston and Koshland Science Museum, I wanted to mention an education and outreach project we are conducting with teen volunteers at the Seattle Aquarium. In this case the group discussions are extended over a three week period, face to face in the first week, on-line with experts in the second week, and then face to face again to write up a position paper and give an oral testimony in front of a panel of local experts and stakeholders. It follows the Danish Consensus Conference model and we have repurposed WWViews booklet and videos: http://www.sciencepolicyandcitizenship.org/
This is really inspiring, Sandy, thanks to you and Darlene for sharing this story. Let us know if you need any help in using or adapting the outreach materials. And Mahmud, this work you and Ira are doing with the teens at the aquarium and the zoos is fantastic – I’m really excited to hear what the students come up with.
It’s great to know about the great stuff you folks are doing to keep the conversation going and bring it to others!