For many people, the moment they realized what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives was set inside a classroom. We have educators and researchers to thank for sharing their information. Climate awareness is such an important tool for adults and younger audiences alike. It’s why incorporating teaching into the role of researchers and professionals is crucial to inspire the next generation.
An example of this is food waste. It’s something that each and every one of us encounters every day — including younger children. Anaya Hall, a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley, is a great advocate of interacting with the waste we produce as a way to become more aware of our environmental impact.
Hall is in the Energy and Resources Group, an interdisciplinary department. For the past five years, she has been studying how food systems in California can be used as a climate change mitigation tool. More recently, Hall gave a presentation on food waste and climate change at Girls in Engineering, a summer camp at UC Berkeley.
“I heard about this program that teaches a whole array of engineering concepts and disciplines to middle school-aged girls,” Hall said.” As a female scholar myself, I think that’s really important to particularly be reaching out to young female scholars.”
Hall said she learned about the camp during her first year at UC Berkeley. She soon discovered that its teachings are similar to her own research. She explained that translating high-level research into simple terms is a useful exercise for professionals, as well as a great learning experience for young audiences.
“This is actually not just an ivory tower academic topic. This is something you can implement in your life every day,” Hall said. “As a researcher, it’s really grounding for me to remind myself of that, too. It’s nice for me to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, this does matter and this does have real importance and can touch people’s lives.”
In her presentation, Hall passed Ziploc bags of food waste the campers had produced from their lunch the day before. Their initial reactions were priceless. After they had all made remarks in disgust, they looked closer.
Hall explained her favorite part of the process. “You see them holding it up and looking at it a lot. I think there’s all these expectations around what a young woman should be and should be interested in and just to give them the freedom of letting their curiosity go,” Hall said.
When putting together her presentation and activities, Hall had some difficulty with making the scientific terms she uses in her research understandable for middle schoolers.
“Trying to bring that research down to the personal level…to really simulate the entire research process and condense it to just an hour and a half lesson,” was a challenge for Hall. “The key thing for us (was) to make it tangible and relatable … and so that’s why we always start with the actual bags of food waste.”
Hall also suggested for other researchers to share their findings as much as possible. She argues that it will not only help a researcher’s ability to communicate their ideas with people outside their professional field but also spreads awareness to new audiences such as kids.
Another tip Hall had for educators trying to teach topics such as these was to appeal to the children’s lives. Encouraging children to share the information they learned with others has been useful in the past to keep the conversation going.
For the researchers and educators out there, take a moment to tell a family member or neighbor about what you do. It will pose as a learning experience for you and others in your community. This is not to mention the younger generations that could be future advocates for the topic.