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Susan O'Rourke | May 18, 2022

parched globe, half in water

New ideas were flowing and growing this April when UNC World View hosted the Teacher-Student Initiative Collaboration Celebration at the North Carolina Botanic Garden. The celebration brought together the cohort of teacher-collaborators selected by UNC World View to study the impact of climate change and the global water crisis. Over this past semester, the teacher-collaborators developed their knowledge of contemporary water issues as they learned from UNC professors Aaron Salzberg and John Bruno. As part of this unique partnership, Dr. Salzberg Zoomed into teacher-collaborators’ classrooms to talk with students and answer questions. Assistant Director for the Teacher-Student Initiative, Courtney Harris-Brown explained that Dr. Salzberg addressed wide-ranging issues, including “access to water and sanitation services; water security; and water, peace, and security. While Dr. Salzberg’s focus is on the continent of Africa, he addressed issues relevant to people across the globe.” For one teacher, this experience was meaningful and impactful as it allowed them to “[bring] real world issues into [their] high school English classroom.” Their work in the Teacher-Student Initiative highlighted just how crucial the arts and humanities are to helping students understand the human experience of global climate events and our relationship with Nature.

At the spring celebration, teachers also learned from Dr. John Bruno about the rich biodiversity that calls the Galápagos Islands home. Courtney Harris-Brown explained that Dr. Bruno helped teachers unpack how “human activities alter the structure and functioning of marine food webs and what local conservation strategies are effective in mitigating these impacts.” Afterwards, teachers exchanged ideas and best practices for infusing their classrooms with discussions of and appreciation for water. Harris-Brown reflected on the success of the inaugural program, recognizing that:

Through the Teacher-Student Initiative Collaboration Celebration, teachers were able to engage in meaningful conversations about integrating water sustainability into their courses. This gave teachers the opportunity to reflect and improve their knowledge of pedagogical content.

The Teacher-Student Initiative proved a generative forum for instructors to learn from experts and change students’ perspectives about pressing global climate issues. We’re looking forward to another successful program returning this fall! Stay tuned for application information coming this summer.