English 6780 Topics in English Education, Spring 2018

Teaching About Climate Change

Climate change is the most important problem facing life on earth, and yet many Americans -- the country with more responsibility for green houses gasses than any other -- are ill-informed about the topic and its urgency. This seminar will help graduate students in English, and other disciplines, develop teaching skills, ideas, and approaches to educate and address this crucial problem.  

Seminar participants will learn about the climate change crisis.  We will consider ways to bring together literature, film, and informational text to develop meaningful, thematic curriculum on the topic. We will study both the power and limitations of the literary imagination to address climate change.  Seminar participants will examine ways to effectively integrate writing into learning, including for inquiry, persuasion, and personal and creative expression. We will examine interdisciplinary learning within and across content areas. We will consider using performance and drama activities to foster direct engagement. Throughout we will focus on ways our students can educate others and take action in a democracy already at risk.

Beyond the seminar, the skills, ideas, and approaches we examine can be brought to bear on teaching about other topics or issues.

The final project of the seminar will be to design an online syllabi for climate change courses that participants would like to teach. These courses will include relevant reading and writing, incorporate resources of the Internet, and use new and social media to inspire, educate, develop skills, and foster involvement, activism, social change, and making a difference.

The seminar welcomes and will be highly relevant to graduate students in English in literature, creative writing, writing studies, and English education. The seminar also welcomes and will be highly relevant to graduate students from any department on campus who are interested in teaching about climate change and will support teaching in ways relevant to their discipline and interests.

The syllabus is provisional, experimental, and open to change.

Teachers need to be informed what is happening in their local communities and around the world. Students in this class are expected to read from a variety of news sources and are invited to bring issues to our class for discussion. WMU provides a free NYT subscription.

Dr. Webb is the author, co-author, or editor of a dozen books including most recently Teaching Climate Change to Adolescents: Reading, Writing, and Making a Difference (2017, Routledge & National Council of Teachers of English). He has taught courses on climate change in English and in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and is a member of the WMU Climate Change Working Group. He has been teaching courses in the teaching of literature and composition at WMU since 1992, and began teaching high school full time in 1981.

The course will be taught in the WMU English Department English Education Labs fostering teacher designed instruction, critical thinking about technology and curriculum, teacher and student publication, free, open-source, or low cost resources, and strategies for bringing the resources and communicative possibilities of the Internet to all students.

Course Success

Since the seminar is discussion-based, attendance and preparation are essential to your own learning and to the learning of your classmates. Missing more than two weeks of the seminar will lower your grade and missing 3 or more may lead to failing. Study my philosophy regarding discussion, preparation, participation, attendance, grading, and learning -- and consider your own philosophy!

Your final course grade will be an average of grades for the major assignments, listed and weighted below. At the hour scheduled for the final exam students will present their final project.

This course will follow WMU policies regarding academic honesty.

WMU has many resources to foster student health and well being. !

My office is 723 Sprau Tower, 387-2605. Office hours are after class and by appointment. You can always reach me via email.



Lynas, Mark. Six Degrees: Life on a Warmer Planet. (National Geographic, 2008)

Beach, Share, & Webb. Teaching Climate Change to Adolescents: Reading, Writing, and Making a Difference (NCTE Press, 2017)

Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. (2016)

Bacigalupi, Paulo. The Water Knife. (2015)

Major Assignments

Class Participation: Reading, Viewing and Weekly Assignments (50%)

Final Project (50%)

Electronic Syllabus

Jan 9: Introductions

1. Read: Atcheson-"How Close to the Savage Soul"

2. View: Trees Are Dying, Dr. Octagon (lyrics)

3. Optional Raps: Dear Future Generations & Man vs Earth, Prince Ea; Climate Change, Coma Niddy; Climate Change, Baba Brinkman

Jan 15: MLK Day "Teach-In" Bernhard Center rm 210, 9am-3pm

Jan 16: Climate Future

1. Read carefully through the entire on-line syllabus. Bring any questions about the syllabus and assignments to class.

2. Join our class phone message system, Remind. If you have a smartphone go to this page in your web browser and follow instructions: rmd.at/k8de3a. If you don't have a smart phone text "@k8de3a" to this number "81010". If you don't have a cell phone go to rmd.at/k8de3a and sign up for email notification.

3. Read: From pages from Eaarth (Bill McKibben 2008) handed out in class.

4. Read: from Six Degrees (2008) the Introduction, the Conclusion (Choosing Our Future), and three of the "degree chapters." For two of those chapters, collaborate with another class member, and with students in my former class, to create a Google Slide Show. Google Slides: 1 Degree, 2 Degrees, 3 Degrees, 4 Degrees, 5 Degrees, 6 Degrees.

5. Read: The Unihabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells, New York Magazine (July 2017).

Jan 23: Climate Change in a Global Perspective

1. Study: Dashboard of the Great Acceleration

2. Read Global Warming's Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibbon, Rolling Stone (July, 2012).

3. "Beyond Extractivism" Chapter 5 of This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein (2014).

4. Read from Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence by Christian Parenti (2011) Table of Contents & Chapter 1 "Who Killed Ekaru Loruman?", Chapter 14: Golgatha Mexicana: Climate Refugees, Free Trade, and the War Next Door, Chapter 15 American Walls and Demagogues, and Chapter 16 Implications and Possibilities. Optional: India and Pakistan, East Africa

5. Read: Drought and War Heighten Threat (March, 2017)

6. Optional: The Age of Consequences (documentary)

Jan 30: Ethics, Politics, & Psychology of Climate Change

1. Read: Chapters 2, 17, 19, 32, 33, 34, & 36 from Don’t Even Think About It by George Marshall (2014)

2. Read: Tragedy of the Commons (Wikipedia) and The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons by Ian Angus

3. View: Merchants of Doubt based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (2011)

4. Read: People's Agreement of Cochabamba 

5. Read: Green Climate Fund

6. Read: Why Birds Matter by Jonathan Franzen (Jan, 2018)

7. Read and explore: Drawdown Solutions Summary

Feb 6: Climate Change in English, and other Disciplines

1. Read: Teaching Adolescents about Climate Change, Preface, Chapter 1, & Chapter 2  

2. Read: Short Stories Rich-"Hermie,""May-"The Audit," Atwood-"Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet" & From Everything Change: “Into the Storm” (Canada), “The Grandchild Paradox,” “Acqua Alta” (Venice), “LOSD and Fount,” “Standing Still” (Madagascar), “On Darwin Tides,” (Malaysia), “Masks” (China), “Wonder of the World” (2016)

3. Bring some sample ideas/materials/links/resources that you can share that might be useful to help teachers "get started" teaching about climate change.

Feb 13: Developing Climate Change Curriculum

1. Read: Teaching Adolescents about Climate Change, Chapter 3

2. Explore recommended materials and research additional/relevant resources for one of the four climate change curriculum areas described in the chapter and prepare to share your research with the class. (1. Indigenous & Postcolonial; 2. Capitalism and Consumerism; 3. Environmental Literature/Ecocritical Teaching; 4. Human Systems -- Energy, military, housing/community development/agriculture.

Feb 20: Thinking Climate Change

1. Read: The Great Derangement

Feb 27: "Cli-Fi"

1. Read: The Water Knife

2. Optional: Read: "What's the story? Competing narratives of climate change and climate justice" by Greta Gaard and/or selection from Storming the Wall by Todd Miller (2017)

Mar 5-8  Spring Break

Mar 13: Climate Change and Literature

1. Read: Teaching Adolescents about Climate Change, Chapter 4

2. Read: "The Tamarisk Hunter"

3. Read: Teaching Adolescents about Climate Change, Chapter 8

4. Read: Textual Intervention, by Rob Pope, Chapters 1 & 2

Mar 20: Exploring Climate Change Literature and Film

1. Read/view climate change literature/film of your choosing and bring materials to the seminar that we can examine and discuss - chapters or passages, clips, teaching ideas, etc. Partial list of possibilities.

2. Read: Literature Circles 

Mar 27: Writing Climate Change

1. Read: Teaching Adolescents about Climate Change, Chapter 5

2. Read: Climate Justice Manifesto Assignment & Manifestos; Examine Writing About Climate Change Samples

3. Create three different writing assignments for the course you are designing, one place-based, one creative, and one persuasive, and prepare to share with the seminar. Sharing could include asking seminar members to experiment with writing one of your assignments.

Apr 3: Media Analysis & Drama and Gaming

1. Read: Teaching Adolescents about Climate Change, Chapters 6 & 7

2. Examine Media and Climate Change Samples

3. Read: "Teaching the Climate Crisis" and "Climate Change Mixer" by Bill Bigelow from A People's Curriculum for the Earth (2014).

4. Design a meaningful media analysis activity for the course you are creating and/or a role play/gaming activity for your course.  Bring materials to class that will allow us to experience/experiment with an activity you are designing.

Apr 10: Taking Action

1. Read: Teaching Adolescents about Climate Change, Chapter 9

2. Examine: Action Project Assignment and Sample Projects

3. Read: Culture Jamming, samples, Brandalism

4. Climate Change and Direct Action Campaigns: King's letter other reading tba

4. Design a taking action component for your course and plan to share with our seminar.

Apr 17: Reflecting on Teaching about Climate Change

1. Read: "How My Schooling Taught Me Contempt for the Earth" by Bill Bigelow from A People's Curriculum for the Earth (2014)

2. Read: "Making climate change our job," by SueEllen Campbell;  "Will the end of the world be on the final exam?" by Robert Wilson, and "Energy, climate, and the classroom" by Imre Szeman from Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities (2017)

3. Read: ETCCC Blog

4. Write: An approximately 1400 word first draft for an ETCC blog post drawing on ideas from the curriculum you are developing.

Apr 23-26 Final Exam Week

Apr 24 Tues 7:15-9:15: Final Exam: Presentation of Final Projects