This Spring the 360° course cluster Climage Change: Science and Politics was forced to adjust its travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The course included 14 students and was taught by three faculty: Bob Dostal, philosophy (Science, Technology, and the Good Life); Victor Donnay, math (Intro to Math Modeling and Sustainability); and Carol Hager, environmental studies and political science (Global Politics of Climate Change).
The Spring Break field experience was originally planned as a 10-day trip to Freiburg, Germany, and the Black Forest region in order to learn about topics such as sustainability practices in housing, transportation, and city planning; the evolution of the area as Germany's "solar region"; local innovations in renewable energy technologies (wind, biomass, solar); community supported organic agriculture and food security issues; and climate justice in an urban setting. Additionally, the group was intending to make local trips into Philadelphia to the Friends Center and the Overbrook Environmental Education Center to facilitate city-to-city comparisons with Freiburg. The students were then planning a community presentation in conjunction with the Community Day of Learning, hosting two panel discussions on sustainable transport and climate communication, to share lessons learned in their trips to Freiburg and Philadelphia.
When word came on Feb 28 that the trip was no longer possible the group was gathered at a planning dinner. They were able to work through their sadness and frustration together and develop alternative plans to meet the goals of the 360° through the following actions:
- They collaborated with their host institution in Freiburg to switch five of the planned sessions to video conferences. Most of these took place during the time they would have been in Freiburg. The faculty and students that stayed on campus during Spring Break met in a classroom and the other students joined from home. This allowed them to receive some of the information they would have if they had been able to visit Freiburg, and they were able to pay their hosts at the Innovation Academy with some of the partial refunds they received from accommodations, transportation, and speaker fees.
- They scheduled alternative activities for the spring break week in Philadelphia. They attended a transportation planning meeting on March 5, along with a walking tour of a relevant part of Center City. They switched a planned visit to the Franklin Institute to discuss climate mitigation activities to a video conference session.
- The students reworked their Community Day of Learning presentations as websites; one on Communicating Climate (a comparison of climate action in Freiburg, Philadelphia, and the Bi-Co; and one of Transportation in Freiburg and Philadelphia.
- They switched several of their site visits to Zoom sessions and held them during class times. This created longer class periods in the latter part of the semester that facilitated guest presentations. In April they held Zoom sessions on community-supported agriculture and food issues in Freiburg (hosted by the Innovation Academy) and on food security and sustainability education in Philadelphia (hosted by the Overbrook Environmental Education Center).
- The final projects required the students to use the perspectives they gained in all three classes in the cluster to address some climate related issue. Because of the online teaching format, these group projects were switched to different formats including live presentations. One example of a final project was the community group, which is presenting their plan for installing solar panels on the roof of the Haverford Community Recreation and Environmental Center at a public Zoom next week.
Asked about the experience, Carol Hagar, one the faculty leaders for the 360°, said she learned the following lessons:
It's helpful to coordinate the work of the 360° with that of existing campus organizations. We were able to do this with the Community Day of Learning (even though it did not take place, it gave us some structure) and the campus sustainability group. This helps give the 360° a constituency and enables the students to feel like they are making a difference. It is also helpful to have a host organization for the field experience that can pivot if necessary from one activity to another. We were lucky to have a long-standing connection with the Innovation Academy in Freiburg, as well as some organizations in Philadelphia.