What role does our local government play in reversing the climate crisis? How can we build new infrastructure (or modify existing structures) to be more environmentally friendly? How can we teach future generations about climate change?
These are some of the questions our ninth grade students set out to answer during NextTerm, The Hun School's experiential mini-semester that provides an intensive, interdisciplinary, real-world learning experience each spring.
"There have been a lot of negative changes to the environment in the past few years," said Katie B. '24. "I don't think we necessarily know how to deal with this."
The freshmen began their experience by looking at climate change through disciplines as disparate as the arts and agriculture to government, education, economics and health. Taught using our Academic Team cohorts and utilizing local experts and organizations, students were assigned to one of eight class tracks. They studied the effects of climate change on each of their respective disciplines, from trash disposal to effects on sea life to carbon emissions.
"It's not really surprising that this is going on. It's kind of scary," said Isabelle C. '24.
But over the course of nine school days, Hun's ninth grade students dug in. They visited farms, an environmental history museum, a library, local businesses, and parks. They called on experts, educators, and politicians. And, little by little, they started to understand that the climate crisis might not be solved by small steps alone.
At Chickadee Creek Farm, an organic farm in Hopewell, Farmer Jess Niederer explained that the only way to reverse the trend of global warming is to support legislation that combats it. At HDR in Princeton, the renowned architecture firm responsible for designing Hun's new DAYLO STEM Center and theatre, the architects said programs like LEED, a green building certification program, are a great incentive for companies to be environmentally responsible. At Bayshore at Bivalve, students learned how legislation that supports responsible oyster farming keeps water clean, sustains reefs, and improves the local economy.
"There are a lot of people who don't really have a regard to climate change, but one personal connection can change your whole mindset on the situation," Anjali M. '24 said. "A lot of people just want their families members to have a safer environment."
In the end, each class created a 12-minute, documentary-style video that to teach their peers what they learned. They hope to show that creative and collaborative skills, driven by student problem-solving, can make a difference in the real world.