- by Mount Saint Mary College

Headshots of Ludmilla Smirnova and Sonya Abbye-Taylor

Mount Saint Mary College's Sigma Tau Chapter 451 of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), the international honorsociety in education, has not let the current COVID-19 pandemic prevent them from hosting high quality educational programing for students and professors.

Virtual climate change symposium features respected researchers
The Mount's KDP recently sponsored the virtual Climate Change and Sustainability symposium, featuring researcher Michael Edelstein and author Harriet Shugarman.

Edelstein is the director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey and the author of many scholarly articles on pollution and climate change.

"What we call the climate crisis is the result of global warming, which occurs when the sun's rays come into the Earth and heat us up," he explained. "The Earth has always been able, since life has been here, to establish some degree of balance by releasing waste heat back into space."

Greenhouse gasses, as the name would imply, make it more difficult for this excess heat to escape. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, like burning fossil fuels.

"The Earth has had a very, very stable range of carbon in the atmosphere going back 800 thousand years," said Edelstein. "But when we see the Industrial Revolution, we see an exponential growth of carbon in the atmosphere."

Human activities have caused about 2.2 degrees of global warming over Industrial Revolution levels, Edelstein added. The long-term effects could be catastrophic, including a raise in the sea level.

Shugarman is the executive director of ClimateMama, an adjunct professor of Climate Change and Society at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and chair of The Climate Reality Project, NYC Metro Chapter. She is also the author of several books, including her latest, How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change: Turning Angst to Action.

"The climate crisis isn't only a science crisis," said Shugarman. "It impacts every part of our lives, whether we are parents, caregivers, or educators."

She added, "We, and many other species, could be on the way out if we don't manage and address the realities that we are facing."

For the teacher candidates participating in the discussion, Shugarman noted that proper education is one of the keys to creating environmentally conscious and caring adults.

"My to look at everything through the lens of the climate crisis," said Shugarman. "There is a way that we can be part of the solutions to come. Whatever your superpower is, your passion – we need music, we need the arts, we need to find ways to tell...our climate stories through what we are passionate about. That will move us and others to action."

International educators discuss pandemic experience
Recently, the Mount's KDP hosted "Pandemic Pedagogy: Lessons in Resilience and Transformation."

This virtual event brought together educators from Italy, Greece, Costa Rica, and the United States to discuss their experiences teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the pandemic's impact on the future of education.

In part one of the meeting, panelists discussed the lessons they learned – what worked and what did not work – within their first year of teaching during the pandemic. Part two moved into a discussion of envisioning education in a post-pandemic world.

The panelists shared their similar experiences of feeling disjointed at the start of the pandemic: teaching in their classroom one day and being told their school would close its doors the next; shifting to remote learning with students who may not have had the technological means to learn from home; and the overall pressure on teachers to make the transition seamless.

Rebecca Quakenbush, a fifth-grade writing teacher and Mount Saint Mary College graduate, explained that, in her experience, those having the most difficulty teaching throughout the pandemic seem to be stuck in a state of comparison: "...clinging to the idea of, for example, where we were in the curriculum last year compared to this year...that whole idea of 'we're falling behind,'" she said.

Quakenbush suggested that rather than comparing the state of education today to what was normal pre-pandemic, "Why not start where our students are at and abandoning that notion of where we should be? 'Should' is a dangerous word in and of itself,'" she noted.

Overall, the panelists chose not to dwell on the negative experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they shared this similar goal of how best to move forward.

Mauricio Navarro, a high school counselor in Costa Rica, believes that moving forward "...we should not forget the importance of the developing of social, emotional, and personal skills. Not only for work, but for life...then we will collaborate in the development of more integral people, and then a positive consequence will be better workers, better leaders, and better citizens," he explained.

After this successful exchange of experiences and ideas, KDP is planning a full conference on the topic in the fall.

About KDP Sigma Tau Chapter 451
Kappa Delta Pi promotes excellence in, and recognizes outstanding contributions to, the field of education. The society endeavors to maintain a high degree of professional fellowship among its members, quicken professional growth, and honor achievement in educational work.

The Mount's Sigma Tau Chapter 451 of KDP is dedicated to service-learning in the local community. It has planned and implemented multiple events before and during the pandemic. Mount KDP students aided in a literacy program at the local charitable organization Newburgh Ministry; tutored students from Bishop Dunn Memorial School (a K-8 school on the campus of the Mount); hosted webinars on a variety of important topics like recycling, grant writing, and enhanced teaching techniques; and more.

The chapter is overseen by KDP Mount co-counselors Ludmilla Smirnova, professor of Education; and Sonya Abbye-Taylor, associate professor of Education.

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