This unit is for a 12th grade International Issues Senior Seminar elective at a mid-sized public high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Most students in this class are enrolled in the Law & Politics Pathway where they took Contemporary Law in 10th grade and Constitutional Law in 11th grade. As a result of this course of study and their experience with student-centered, anti-racist and transformative pedagogy in these classes, they are ready for the continued embedding and examination of critical race theory in their learning. In addition, they expect continued engagement through discussion and performance-based assessment. As a result of the international focus, the focus on current events, and the multiple opportunities for student choice, students are motivated to participate, research, and discuss topics related to capitalism, patriarchy, racism & imperialism, climate crisis, and war. However, as a result of the intensity, trauma, and violence associated with these critical issues, it is crucial to also center and celebrate the resistance movements that consistently respond to toxic oppression and recreate lasting worlds of justice, healing, and peace. This unit focuses on dominant narratives and counternarratives to support students’ analysis of critical issues and subsequent envisioning of another possible world.
Young people in New Haven have drawn their elders’ attention to the need for more robust climate justice education in our schools. The purposeful organizing by the Climate Justice Schools Initiative demands that a curricular shift take place in all disciplines to bring relevant climate connections to our classrooms. According to their website, “The Climate Justice School program recognizes the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities and future generations and actively works towards curbing the human cost of a changing climate while creating healthier communities.”1 The urgency of climate education cannot be understated, and the benefits are clear. As a social studies teacher, I will put Intersectional Climate Justice in the forefront of my curriculum. Climate studies should not be just the work of science teachers. Students will learn about Climate Justice by considering the race, gender, and power implications of the climate crisis. By situating the current Climate Justice movement in the historical and cultural context of anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist movements of the past and present, I can strengthen the counternarratives of this unit and center Black led resistance movements. I also have an opportunity to highlight these connections between Climate Justice, anticolonialism, and anti-capitalism through the centering and analysis of Black art, specifically film, sculpture, prints, and photography. In order to center the voices of young people, students will curate their own Black Art and Climate Justice art exhibits that connect to the counternarratives, art, and artists we investigate.