Teaching hope during the climate crisis

Story ideas from McGill University.
Published: 14 March 2023

Headlines about severe climate events can make the future seem bleak. A new climate crisis and climate action course at McGill University is helping students find enough hope to be inspired to act. As a final assignment, students were asked to draw on what they learned in the course, as well as their own personal experiences and interests, to create a climate action plan. “We want students to see that there’s a place for them to take on climate action, so that they can have hope and agency, even if they don’t come into the course with that idea,” said Marcy Slapcoff, Director of the Office of Science Education (OSE) and co-lead of the course, which featured a panel of five instructors of diverse backgrounds each week. The cross-disciplinary format modeled a space for respectful listening and dialogue, allowing students to observe their instructors discussing and debating the material. “It’s empowering for students to see an instructional team work together and listen to each other,” said co-lead instructor and Faculty Lecturer at the OSE Diane Dechief. “It makes them feel that they can engage in a similar, respectful way with their peers.” In October of last year, former MP and NHL goaltender Ken Dryden – who helped develop the course – opened the first class with a lecture on how solving big, hard problems requires excitement and outrage. “I hope deep, deep down you understand, you appreciate, just what an amazing, incredible something we are all a part of,” said Dryden.

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