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Maria Archibald

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Learning by Doing: Designing a Climate Justice Curriculum with and for Young Activists

-Maria Archibald

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After studying environmental science at the University of North Carolina–Asheville and teaching ecology in Maine, Colorado, and California, I arrived in Arizona where I developed a deep commitment to the Southwest and discovered my passion for grassroots organizing. I began to organize regionally and nationally with youth-led climate justice groups, including Uplift and the Power Shift Network, and spent four years coordinating the Rising Leaders Program at the Grand Canyon Trust, where I facilitated political education and community organizing workshops for young people. I am now an M.A. candidate in the University of Utah’s Environmental Humanities program
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This project asks the questions: What mobilizes young people in the greater southwest to become climate justice activists? And how can educators design curricula that mobilize and sustain youth engagement in climate justice work?
To answer these questions, I examine critical pedagogy and its critiques; theories that expand critical pedagogy and adapt it to different contexts; and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with youth climate justice organizers. This research informs an ongoing, collaborative, youth-led effort to design a climate education program for young people across the region. The curriculum—designed with and for aspiring young climate activists—supports participants, not only in developing a critical consciousness of the oppressive systems that create climate injustice, but also in learning and practicing tangible skills and tactics to catalyze change in their communities.
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My thesis asks the question “what mobilizes young people in the Southwest to become climate justice activists?” To answer this question, I conducted interviews with youth climate activists from across the region, and incorporated my research findings into a climate justice training program that I collaboratively designed with a coalition of local high school and college students.