This College Class Is Teaching Students How to Be Climate Leaders


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In many schools, the study of climate change is limited to the science. But at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, students in one class also learn how to take climate action.

“You need to know how to communicate it to people. You need to know how to organize if we’re going to get anything done,” said Jessica Gutknecht in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate.

Each spring, she co-teaches a class called “The Global Climate Challenge: Creating an Empowered Movement for Change.”

Gutknecht walks students through the science. Teddie Potter from the School of Nursing encourages them to look at climate change from a health perspective. And Julia Nerbonne of the nonprofit Interfaith Power and Light teaches them how to lead grassroots change.

“We also have them do these community action projects where they are out pounding the pavement trying to get things done,” Gutknecht said.

In the past, that’s included starting community gardens, convincing businesses to do energy audits, and engaging sororities and fraternities in climate action.

“Every student needs to know that they have voice and that they can be actors in this wicked problem of climate change,” Gutknecht said. “And so every step of the way, whatever we’re teaching them, we are empowering them. And we’re teaching them that they have something valuable to bring to the table, whatever their passions are.”

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