Who Will Take the Heat?

POSTED ON BEHALF OF ANNSLEIGH CARTER

For this blog, I wanted to look for an activity that addressed some of the things we talked about during our last class about environmental education. As a class, we discussed the degree to which we should include environmental education in schools, which led to an interesting conversation about priority of values and if teaching about climate change is pushing a political agenda in the classroom. To address that concern, I found an experiential learning lesson plan from PBS about environmental political negotiation called “Who will take the heat?” Here’s the link: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/worldbalance/roleplay/heat.html.

This is a policy negotiation role-play activity, and the players are the US, China, environmental movement, and international business. This activity requires the reading/discussion skills of high school or college students. For the first part of the activity, students are broken into groups and given readings for one of these four roles. Students should understand that this is a role-play, not a debate, and the lesson defines negotiation as “a process in which two or more parties seek to understand one another’s interests and create options that will reduce or remove a conflict between them.” In teams, students have to figure out what is most important to their group, what they could compromise on, and propose solutions. Before the negotiation, they go over the following terms:

  • Interests: What a group wants and its reasons for wanting them.
  • Beliefs: There are two types of beliefs—values and truths. Values are the group’s belief that it has a “right” to something or a belief in the way the world “should” be. Truth is its understanding of how and why things happen and how the world “is.”
  • Identities: These are the words a group uses to name itself and encompasses its history, culture, qualities, and characteristics.
  • Emotions: This is how a group feels about something.

Then, the teams come together in order to create a solution that fits the necessities of all of the groups. As it says in this lesson plan, this part might extend over more than one class period.

After the negotiation, the class should debrief by talking about what went well and what could have been better in the negotiation, as well as a discussion of some of the major points that were brought up. There is also a closing evaluation, and the site gives a few different options for that. Personally, I would like to close this activity by having the students pick a solution that they agreed with from the negotiation and write about their role in real life would be in the commitment. This would require them to reflect on their level of engagement with climate change, and this might create a sort of negotiation with the self about what we are and are not willing to do.

I appreciate that the activity implies that something must be done to limit our harm to the environment, but it lets students come to their own decision about what must be done about it. It does not really push a political agenda, but forces students to take on a role in a real world issue. Through discussion and negotiation, students realize how environmental policy works. The negotiation skills they will learn from this activity will be useful for them as well.

I think this class fits well into our class themes of environmental sustainability and conflict resolution. It forces students to look at environmental sustainability on a global scale, then with the closing activity that I chose, makes them apply what they learned to their own lives. At the heart of the activity is peaceful negotiation and mediation of conflicting ideals. Students have to learn how to compromise to get what they want and to listen to others.

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