By Tracey Ann Ritchie, Ph.D.
Director of Education at Earth Day Network
I fully support the climate strikes on September 20, 2019. The opportunity to participate in the global environmental movement is both meaningful and educational. Through climate strikes, students learn about environmental science, government policy, critical and systems thinking, team building, communication and many other interdisciplinary academic and professional skills.
This is the learning we have been hoping for our students. This is how they develop 21st-century skills. This is how they become active and successful participants in a global job force. This is how they develop into future leaders.
That’s why I wrote and signed the “doctor’s note” below, excusing students from class for the global climate strikes. Download, share, or print your own note here!
In my doctoral research at the University of Florida, I examined how educators can more effectively teach about climate change and how students can better learn about climate change through a systems approach. Systems thinking abandons a siloed approach that keeps disciplines separate and instead makes connections between social, environmental, economic and governmental systems. Through systems thinking, we teach students to reflect on how issues exist in the complexity of real world, rather just consider one independent aspect at a time.
Students will not become environmentally literate solely through textbooks in a classroom. Students need to engage with and participate in the civic process. These students don’t have the luxury of time. They cannot wait three, five or 10 years to vote to have a say in their future. They demand action now for the climate crisis that exists today. And we need to not only listen but act on their behalf.
For those who question students’ motivations and assume that these strikes are just an excuse to miss school, I challenge you to attend these strikes. See the passion, dedication and adamant commitment of these students. Witness the complexity of these events and realize how much effort and extra hours students put in to organizing these events.
I know not everyone can strike, but for those who can, I urge you to do so. As I learned from several of the climate strike leaders who gathered in Washington, D.C., recently, there is a community in this movement. There is support, collaboration and hope.
As an educator, a scientist and an environmentalist, as well as a voter, I fully support these strikes and demonstrations of civic action. I will be joining other adults on Friday and standing with our youth to demand a safe, healthy and sustainable future for all. I ask that you join me and our youth leaders as we demand a better environment.