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What does good learning look like?

Interdisciplinary and Relevant

Jeff Sigler has been teaching science for over a decade. In his 4th year at Watkinson, Dr. Sigler is excited about the prospect of teaching a new course to his high school students.  The working title for the course is “Global Climate Change”.  While the course name isn’t settled, the motivating factors driving the proposed elective are clear: there is significant concern about human impacts on the Earth’s climate within our student body; and the school has a need for more course offerings in science that are interdisciplinary and/or not purely based on life sciences. 

This course will address several essential questions: 

  • How does the Earth’s climate system work? 
  • How does human activity impact our climate? 
  • What are the main lines of evidence of human impacts? 
  • Who bears the greatest impact and cost of climate change? 
  • What decisions can we make to reduce our impacts or even make them positive so that the world will truly belong to the living, and not the dead?

Dr. Sigler is excited at the prospect, “The interdisciplinary nature of this course is what I really like. Yes it’s a science class, heavy on earth science and meteorology; but it’s also an exploration of a topic that affects everyone, bringing in so many other sciences and social sciences. It seems pointless to teach about climate change and not also talk about the pop culture, political, and public health cost aspects of the climate change discussion. I believe there is something in this study that will resonate with all young people regardless how they feel about science.” Dr. Sigler also adds that it’s the interdisciplinary part that will force him out of his comfort zone as a teacher.

Head of Upper School Ryan Reese adds, “We’re so lucky to have Jeff with us at Watkinson for so many reasons, one of which is his remarkable expertise in climate science.  We’re constantly looking to ensure our students are ready to enter the world and shape their individual and collective futures, and there is no doubt that an understanding of climate science will be essential as they move forward.  Jeff’s expansive approach to this topic — looking at the Earth science, as well as issues of equity, access, and environmental justice — continues our hopes that students see problems and more importantly, their solutions, as complex and multi-faceted.  It has been exciting to see Jeff work through the construction of this course, and our students will be excited to see it as an offering for next fall! “

Sigler actually began developing this course 10 years ago in a college setting. “It seems to me the relevance of the topic has grown; it was dire 10 years ago, and it’s more dire now. I recognize that I may need to address potential ensuing panic of students as they learn more. I will have to be honest with them so they learn what’s going on, what’s causing climate collapse, and what the stakes are…without being cynical about it. I want the kids to feel empowered and know it’s them, their children, and their grandchildren who will have the power and responsibility to address this problem. To do that, they need to know the tools to address, mitigate, and stem the problem.” 

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