Gathering Together for a My Climate Story Teacher Retreat

July 13, 2022

On June 17th, we kicked off summer with a My Climate Story retreat on Penn's campus in Williams Hall. PPEH Founding Director Bethany Wiggin, Program Coordinator Angela Faranda, and I (Mia D’Avanza, also a Program Coordinator and managing editor of Field Notes) were pleased to host our cohort of Climate Champion teachers for the event and introduce them to the summer My Climate Story research interns who are supporting the project.

Through a climate story speed interviewing session and thoughtful conversation, these nine high school teachers from across the Philadelphia School District learned more about My Climate Story and expressed their goals for this collaboration. Together we talked through the work we will do over the coming year to develop locally-focused climate storytelling lesson plans and live workshops. Three of the teachers--Anna Herman, an Urban Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources (AFNR) Management Educator at the U School in North Philadelphia; Mariaeloisa Carambo, a History teacher at Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia; and Matthew Scanlan, an Environmental Science Teacher and Dean of Students at Northeast High School in Northeast Philadelphia-- kindly shared a few follow-up reflections from June's meeting with me. Read more below!

Teachers are seated around a table in conversation.
Photo by Gates Rhodes


What was the most valuable outcome of the retreat for you?

Anna Herman: The most valuable outcome for me was how your team grounded the work we are setting out to do together in “community.” Having the chance to connect with other educators, and being welcomed and supported to form relationships across schools & disciplines (and over a healthy meal together) set the tone for a great year of collaboration.

Mariaeloisa Carambo: Understanding the structure of this program as it is to be implemented in the classroom was extremely valuable. What I found most valuable however, was the modeling of the speed interviewing and understanding what a climate story looks like. 

Matthew Scanlan: The most valuable outcome of the retreat would be connecting with the student interns and hearing their stories. It was great to see how well in tune and connected to the environment they actually are. We hear too many stories about the next generation being disconnected with nature and these students proved that stereotype to be invalid.

Is there a particular moment or memory from the My Climate Story speed interviewing session that stands out?

AH: Many of the responses triggered memories and reminded me of little things I had forgotten that are clear indicators of climate change: someone said “we used to have snow days.”  

MC: It was quite interesting to see the diversity of ways in which people interpreted what a climate story looks like, and the range of small scale and broader scale experience folks have had with climate change. In particular the meta-analysis was important, where Dr. Wiggin identified trends, commonalities, and differences among the stories. I will try to incorporate such an analysis when my students engage with this exercise. 

MS: The main comment that stands out is hearing the one person I interviewed discuss the red tide issue in Florida. This was awesome to hear a first hand account of the red algae issue because this is something I teach in my classes, and to hear a first hand account of its effect was incredible.

Which aspect of the project most interests you, after learning more?

AH: The possibility of helping students, fellow educators, and the general public connect climate change to everything that is happening through stories.

MC: I am most interested in learning how to get my students excited about joining the fight to save our planet; and in understanding how to relay the urgency of this work to my students without adding to their already lived trauma and stress.

MS: I am really interested in having my students connect with other students from different schools and have them collaborate with fellow teachers and students.