January 14, 2022

Getting students to create their Climate Action Venn Diagram

Posted by Laura Guertin

There are so many calls for climate action, and these calls are increasing in volume and numbers. My 2022 New Year’s Resolution blog post was on climate action (I encourage you to check out the links in the blog post). But I know for my students, there needs to be a little more mentoring and guidance to help them feel prepared and empowered to take those steps and make a difference.

Back in March 2021, I was listening to the podcast series How To Save A Planet. Each episode has a discussion and wraps up with calls to action. There’s even a resource list one can access with all the calls to action archived from previous episodes. But the call to action at the end of the episode Is Your Carbon Footprint BS? had a suggestion that I found simple and accessible for students to engage with.

Meet the Climate Action Venn Diagram.

I taught a course online last semester titled Earth in the Future: Predicting Climate Change and Its Impacts Over the Next Century. As part of the final exam for this introductory-level course for non-STEM majors, I had students create a Climate Action Venn Diagram to think about how they can continue with applying what they have learned and carrying that momentum and passion they built up in the course for doing “something” about climate change. There’s no reason this couldn’t be done at the beginning of a course, or during a class period and have students share their diagrams with each other. There are so many applications of how to use this, and it starts with three simple questions (or perhaps not-so-simple for some).

This is what I provided students for the section of the final exam that involved the Climate Action Venn Diagram. I hope it may encourage you to consider doing a modified version of this exercise with your students – or, create a diagram for yourself! I did receive feedback from one student about this exam via email that I’ll share: “Im currently doing the final and I think this is probably the best final I’ve ever taken. It has a little bit of a fun process, while it relates to what we’re doing, and isn’t too stressful.” Hopefully, other students felt the same way and saw the relevance of what this piece of the final exam means for them moving forward.

I’ve said this before in this course, and in every course I teach every semester – if your learning stays just between you and me, then we’ve both failed. Your new knowledge needs to be shared, and you absolutely have enough new climate science knowledge to do “something” with it that makes a difference. The final paper you wrote in Week 15 – your All We Can Save essay – was written from what I would call “your head.” This final exam question should be written from “your heart.” 

Take a look at this diagram, known as the Climate Action Venn Diagram (more information about it is available at this website: https://generation180.org/where-do-i-start/): [*students provided same diagram shown above in this blog post]

The idea is that as you look at these three circles, you answer the questions in each one. Then, those responses lead you to develop the response to the prompt that intersects all three.

So here we go…. And please, provide thoughtful responses with enough detail so that I see you put some reflection into these responses (like you did each week in your Learning Journal).

What are you good at? Knowing what special skills, networks, and resources you have can help you figure out how you can uniquely contribute. This doesn’t have to be a science answer – just write up a paragraph where you describe your talents. (minimum one paragraph response)

What brings you joy? This can be a challenging question to answer – especially during final exam week, especially during this never-ending pandemic. But try to reflect and focus on something you are passionate about that keeps you interested and motivated. Again, this doesn’t have to be a science answer – think about “happy things” outside this course. (minimum one paragraph response)

What is the work that needs doing? Addressing climate change requires many people doing work on many solutions, so consider the wide range of climate solutions and what work you can contribute to. Think about the smallest actions and bigger solutions, from Project Drawdown to climate justice to other areas you learned about in All We Can Save and in the modules (TED Talks, current event news articles, etc.). What is the work that you feel needs to be done? (minimum one paragraph response)

What should you do? The intersection of the answers to these three questions represents a good place to focus, and the response will be uniquely you! Please do not provide a response that describes something you are doing already – think of something new, something that you haven’t tried doing or are maybe thinking about for the first time in the area of climate action. It may be an individual action, or something where you need to involve others, join an organization, etc. It may not be something you take action on right now (pandemic and all)… but based upon your skills, personal rewards, and necessary climate actions – what should you do? (minimum two paragraph response)