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Let's Talk Sustainability Staff Reflection
For five weeks this summer, I ran a summer youth program with a few colleagues called “Let’s Talk Sustainability” (LTS). LTS is a youth development program that teaches high school students about sustainability with a STEM focus. The intense summer portion of the program had us meeting with students for five consecutive weeks every Monday-Thursday for full days. Overall, the program was very manageable, due in large part to the enormous amount of preparation that went into developing the curriculum for this program.
Still, despite all the preparation in the world, programs take a life of their own once they start, mainly because the youth who join create their own dynamic That, and there are always unforeseen elements that are beyond our control, no matter how much we anticipate them (i.e. technical difficulties, student behavior, weather conditions on field trips, etc).
The program was interesting in that I was able to evaluate my own opinions about the environmental issues we've discussed, which includes topics such as alternative energy sources, fracking, food justice, climate change, electronic waste, and many others. Actually, I was forced to reflect often because a PhD researcher who observed our program interviewed me every week. In teacher education schools, they always tell you to keep a “teaching journal” with reflections as a best practice. However, it's hard to do that when you’re extremely busy and exhausted at the end of the day. In this case, my reflection was built into the program, which I found to be very helpful.
Overall, I’ve found that my own interest in environmental issues has increased significantly. I’m drawn to news about the environment and am more aware about specific issues. In daily life, I’m making conscious choices about everything, from how I’m disposing my trash, to how many plastic bags I use, to what I’m purchasing at the grocery store, to changing electrical appliances I use. It sounds basic, but these are the everyday behavioral changes that I hoped students would make at the end of the program. Habits are hard to change (students still ate McDonald’s everyday after all), but I’m slowly making lifestyle changes myself, in the age old, “practice what you preach” model.