By Nelson Graves

Students at Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut have been named “Decoders in the Spotlight” in recognition of their exemplary contributions in November to News-Decoder’s examination of climate change.

Students in Sarah Bouckoms’s Environmental Lab Science course helped drive discussion of global warming in News-Decoder’s online forum, posting questions, comments and links ahead of a webinar last month on the topic featuring students from Indiana University and an intern at a French newspaper.

News-Decoder tackles a major international topic each month, providing a platform for students to discuss and debate the world’s biggest issues. In recent months, students have examined China and East Asia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and climate change.

Sarah Bouckoms

This week, students at Friends Seminary in New York and King’s Academy in Jordan will discuss migration. In the first half of 2018, we will hold four seminars, including sessions on women’s rights and secessionist movements in Europe involving students from Miss Porter’s, Westover School and School Year Abroad.

On climate change, Bouckoms’s 40-odd students, mostly in their first year of high school, read background material that News-Decoder correspondent Sue Landau had posted in the discussion board, and then posted questions and comments before watching the taped webinar in class.

“The topic fit perfectly into our curriculum,” said Bouckoms, who is in her fifth year teaching at the all-girl’s boarding school in Farmington, Connecticut, and who has traveled to all seven continents.

Bouckoms had learned about News-Decoder from Sophie Paris, who is the director of the school’s Institute for Global Education and who is spearheading efforts to link the educational news service to the school’s curriculum.

“Are Americans willing to change their everyday lives?”

Miss Porter’s students peppered the discussion board with questions and comments.

    • “Many people have a ‘don’t care, I’ll be dead before this affects me’ attitude about climate change. We need to educate them that it will affect you and countless others within our lifetime.”
    • “Until the profits from renewable energy are greater than profits from fossil fuels, a shift is unlikely to happen.”
    • “If we planted more trees and restored forests and jungles, then we could help slow down the rapidly increasing temperature.”
    • “After transitioning into a much less carbon-dependent world, how long would it take to recover Pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures?”
    • “How can we reduce deforestation and demand for products, such as those that use palm oil, in order to save our forests and reduce the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere?”
    • “Are American people willing to sacrifice and change their everyday lives to help give back to the environment?”

The students took time after the webinar to send feedback, praising the international scope of the session.

“It is very interesting to listen to others and share my thoughts with so many different people from many places across the world,” one student wrote.

“I really liked the webinar because I didn’t really think that there was anything anyone was doing about climate change, and the discussion allowed me to see that there were people doing little things all over the world about climate change,” another said.

Several students justifiably took News-Decoder to task for technical glitches that marred the online event, and they asked that the sessions be more interactive. “It was often a bit unclear to hear people and hard to understand what they were saying,” one student said.

As much as that criticism stung, I realize that if News-Decoder wants to empower young people, we need to listen to their views to ensure we support one another and grow stronger.

In September, Suining Sim of ISF Academy in Hong Kong was named News-Decoder’s first “Decoder in the Spotlight” for her outstanding contributions to our examination of China and East Asia. In October, former News-Decoder intern Emma Bapt, a student at King’s College London, earned the honor.

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