One of the hardest aspects of climate change is staying positive and proactive in the face of a huge, scary, global problem. It often feels too big for one person. Students in New Vista High School’s (NVHS) Activism Through Self-Expression Workshop used the scary side of climate change to their advantage by playing on this fear to attract students to a presentation on ways you can take steps to provide solutions to climate change, right now.
On the first day of the workshop, students learned they would have the opportunity to co-create the class with their Cottonwood Institute instructor. This freedom, and subsequent responsibility, was embraced by the students. They had lots of questions. 1) How do you work with people who are fundamentally opposed to finding climate change solutions? 2) Can we apply our individual passions to the problem to stay positive and teach others? 3) How do we spread our enthusiasm to others?
For the first question, students looked at research by the Yale Program on Climate Communication, Maria Tolero, and the Yale Cultural Cognition Project among others to figure out who we are really talking about when we say “those people” who are anti climate change solutions. We also looked at how to find common ground and how to empathize. This discussion ultimately led to their above-mentioned (and rather eye-catching) title for their final presentation.
Then, to answer question two, passionate students got to talk about everything from how natural death practices to drought tolerant plants could contribute to climate change solutions. Other students went to the University of Colorado to learn cutting-edge practices they could apply to New Vista. Two students created a Discord server for New Vista as a creative solution to the problem of fast fashion.
The whole class applied Cottonwood Institute’s theory of change to create a unique opportunity. Gift + Issue = Change. Their gifts—passion, knowledge, creativity, communication skills—when applied to the issue of climate change, led to helping affect the hearts and minds of their peers.
Written by New Vista CAP and Workshop instructor Amy Atkins