Wednesday, August 9, 2017

British YA novelist Sarah Holding explains a new approach to teaching children and teens about global warming

by staff writer, The Cli-Fi Report

A writer that we know in Britain, Sarah Holding, is the author of a popular YA ''cli-fi''
series titled the ''SeaBEAN'' trilogy.  For more information on YA (Young Adult)
and middle grade cli-fi titles, see the article she wrote for the Guardian newspaper

See also:

She recently penned a new oped titled "Getting a grip on climate change via
children's cli-fi" and she gave this blogger permission to quote from it.

In it, she argues for
a new approach to teaching global warming.

"There’s no escaping climate change in the media, but in the classroom it has a more tenuous grip
on the imaginations of today’s primary and secondary school students," Holding wrote. "This is due in part to the
fact that as a topic it has encountered resistance on both sides of the Atlantic as to whether it even
has a place in the education of this age group, leaving it relegated to corners of the science and
geography curriculum, rooted firmly in the ‘recycling’ bin."

"But there’s more to teaching climate change than a bit of judicious attention to waste or energy
management. Once you get over the ‘is it or isn’t it happening’ issue and tackle some of the hard-
to-avoid hard science, there is little time left for contextualising the human ramifications, which
rarely if ever get discussed. And yet this age group will be the generation called upon to devise
population-wide coping strategies and implement effective mitigation policies once we realise we
are knee-deep in climate change’s unavoidable consequences.

"This is where cli-fi, an exciting new genre to emerge in literature in the past few years, has much to
offer the average elementary school teacher. Broaching the subject of climate change via a
fictional narrative, where the reader is asked to identify with characters who are facing some
significant disruption to their everyday lives, or are struggling to come to terms with the harsh
reality that climate change poses, makes the human and emotional responses much more tangible
and creates opportunities to discuss the issues using a scenario-based approach. Role-play,
creative writing and imaginative participation in the face of rising sea level, increasing volatility of
weather, and the inevitability of displaced coastal communities, not only present a premise rich in
dramatic potential, but also serve to engage students who are otherwise somewhat removed and
hence disenfranchised from the likelihood of such a tide of events happening within their lifetimes.

"In schools I have worked with across the UK, students are more readily and rapidly engaged in
discussions surrounding climate change if they are asked to generate ideas for stories rather than
having to contemplate it as a practical imminent problem to be solved. They can set aside their
own immediate anxiety about the impact on their own life, and instead consider the problem of
climate change more dispassionately and holistically, adopting less of a victim mindset and more of
a wide-ranging and comprehensive anthropological perspective.

"As their interest develops, students’ understanding of climate change and the havoc it could cause,
is subtly nuanced through their literary explorations, and the scope to compare different likely
responses and their cultural determinants can be fully thought through. There is now a fairly
comprehensive array of cli-fi titles that afford teachers the opportunity to remain neutral and to
approach climate change in a more exploratory and human-centred way. It is not about
interrogating the metrics of disaster or confronting the scientific data-gathering challenges, but
about the wider implications of the data and the metrics impacting on people’s lives all over the
world. It puts them in the driving seat of how we might be called upon to act differently, not in the
very small adjustments we might make to our lives now, in order to conserve resources, but in
much more radical ways in the future, when we have widespread flooding or grid down situations,
precipitating social unrest and levels of deprivation that are, even for the most disadvantaged pupil,
unthinkable at this moment.

"Facing the likely stresses of climate change by way of fiction enables young people to rehearse
their responses, letting them vicariously experience the difficulties arising, and seeing some of the
diverse ways these may play out. If education is seen as a preparation for adult life, then climate
change has an important part to play in this preparation, and climate change fiction is a useful
learning modality for orientating young minds to a very pressing problem."

And there you have it: a very good oped by Sarah Holding on a new approach to teaching global warming.


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