By SARA RUBERG
Rick Garrett wants his students to take action for the environment.
That’s why he was the first to sign up out of the 32 teachers attending the Wild Center’s first residential teacher training on climate science, this week at the North Country School’s campus in Lake Placid. As a biology and ecology teacher at Skaneateles High School and an adviser to the school’s environmental club, Garrett came to the four-day workshop to learn from others and bring back new ideas on teaching climate science in his classroom.
“We’re almost like mimics,” Garrett said. “We hear an amazing idea and then we can go and we can present it to our kids intelligently.”
Educators from around New York, and some from Connecticut, gathered to find ways to teach climate science across all subjects, including natural sciences, history, art, English, family and consumer science and more. Organizations including Norwalk’s aquarium, the Ashokan Center and NOAA Sea Grant sent representatives.
Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben opened the event on Monday as the keynote speaker. McKibben spoke about the power of youth leadership in climate science, and why teachers need to back them up.
“It’s very good that you’re here as teachers,” he said, “not because you’re going to need to necessarily guide your students going forward, but because you’re going to need to be able to catch up with your students.
“Young people are the absolute center of climate action now.”
During his presentation, he also emphasized the urgency of climate change and the necessity of taking action now. Teachers expressed shock when McKibben showed a video of ice he witnessed collapsing into the ocean in Greenland. Then, he gave hope by showing pictures of youths and adults leading demonstrations for climate action around the world through his organization, 350.org.
“Let (your students) understand that they live in remarkably historic times,” McKibben said. “The most important scientific fact about climate change is that it’s a timed test. If we don’t get it right quickly, then we will never get it right.”
Jen Kretser, the director of climate initiatives at the Wild Center and one of the organizers of the summer teacher institute, says she was moved by McKibben’s talk.
“I always feel very inspired and motivated,” Kretser said. “I also feel … we need to do more. How do we scale and accelerate the work that we’re doing in a big way?”
The program was scheduled to include more lectures, hands-on activities and a visit to the Wild Center. By the end of the week, the teachers planned to present ways they can teach what they learned at the program to their students.