A cornerstone of McAuliffe’s philosophy is sharing work that matters with an authentic audience. On the evening of February 8th, 2023, we were honored to host Mayor Charlie Sisitsky, several city council members, and Aimee Powelka, Vice Chair of the Framingham Sustainability Committee at our culminating event for the 8th-grade Climate Change Expedition (study). This celebration of learning consisted of an open house for parents and caregivers where students presented artwork, artist statements, and letters they wrote to officials outlining suggestions for addressing climate change in the local community. Each scholar gave an oral presentation and fielded questions from the audience. This dialog revealed that students engaged in extensive research on the issues and thought deeply about the impact their concrete suggestions might have.
In preparing for the project work, students learned about the effective rhetorical devices of pathos, ethos, and logos used in persuasive writing. They read exemplars such as Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and James Baldwin’s “A Letter to My Nephew” to understand how to compose a compelling argument. Then they learned how to write and format activist letters. To understand the science content, scholars researched topics related to climate change such as the relationship between the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth, seasons, eclipses, tides, albedo (the ability of a surface to reflect sunlight), the effect of greenhouse gasses on heating up the earth and its atmosphere, the carbon cycle, the difference between weather and climate, ocean currents, and rising sea levels. Finally, they selected a single innovative suggestion to recommend that would make a substantial impact on slowing down climate change. These ranged from using sustainable building materials to collecting rainwater for watering gardens to promoting bicycle transportation to painting roofs and roadways white to lower the amount of heat trapped in cities to recycling more effectively.
As they left, our elected officials commented on how impressed they were with the student work, passion, and advocacy. They said they appreciated hearing their suggestions. This reaction validates our school values in empowering youth to learn to take a stand, advocate for their beliefs, and take environmental stewardship seriously.
Written by Zevey Steinitz, Interim Executive Director