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U-M Earth Day teach-out engages with environmental justice, sustainability themes to inspire action

EVENT: Earth Day at 50 Teach-Out

INFORMATION: What does the future of sustainability mean to you? The answer to that question can look very different in the eye of the beholder but can create productive conversations about our biggest environmental issues and help us work toward solutions.

This is the approach that design managers of the Earth Day at 50 Teach-Out, Annie Sadler and Benjamin Morse of the Center of Academic Innovation, chose to engage with participants for Earth Day’s 50th anniversary coming up next month.

A teach-out is an opportunity for online learners to immerse themselves in discussions addressing society’s most difficult topics. There is no graded content nor testing, which allows participants to focus instead on personal and collaborative reflection. For the Earth Day at 50 Teach-Out, learners can expect video content on a wide array of sustainability topics and opportunities to connect with other participants around the world.

“The teach-out is designed to provide maximum access and accessibility, and to bring people together to discuss such a salient social topic,” Morse said. “We want to use this teach-out to reimagine our future and reflect on our past by leveraging our technologies to reach a large audience.”

The online learning opportunity will start with an exploration of the roots of Earth Day on the U-M campus. Matt Lassiter, U-M professor of history, and urban and regional planning, will lead the teach-out, along with Brian Williams, an archivist at the Bentley Historical Library, and some of the original Environmental Action for Survival (ENACT) activists who initiated the first Teach-In for the Environment on Earth Day in 1970.

Through sharing their stories, the stage will be set for participants to jump into a discussion on the history of sustainability. Perspectives on a variety of other sustainability-related topics will be discussed by faculty, students, researchers and community members.

Topics include global sustainability efforts, policy and legal issues, climate change and environmental justice. These topics will be approached through a future-oriented lens, an experience for participants designed to spark curiosity, questions and conversation, while also recognizing that these are complex and open-ended questions.

“The topics that we discuss in these teach-outs are not easy topics,” Sadler said. “That’s what makes these teach-outs so special: we are able to have meaningful nuanced conversations online, conversations that don’t just exist in-person. It’s a wonderful example of how—especially now given the recent COVID-19 crisis—we can still engage with each other on difficult and challenging questions.”

For further learning on a variety of other topics such as self-driving cars, fake news and gun violence, past teach-outs are archived and available to view on Michigan Online.


SPONSOR: Center for Academic Innovation, EarthDay@50

More on the topics and people involved
Other events for Earth Day