A Teacher Helping Teachers
Jill Rennicke, Alumni Coordinator

The numbers are staggering: 55 percent of teachers in America say that they do not educate their students on climate change, according to a recent National Public Radio report. As a teacher herself, Malanka Riabokin was shocked. “That means more than half of America’s children are growing up ill-equipped to understand the challenges they will face,” she says. So, this 2005 graduate of Conserve School decided to do something about it.

Malanka has taught science herself for years and designed courses for such venues as the University of Arizona. This summer, she will combine that expertise and with the aid of a $10,000 grant from Be Interactive, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, she will strive to help make it easier for teachers to find what they need to take on this pressing issue.

“I am a teacher myself,” she says, “When I search for climate lessons online I find that many are single-topic lessons, or that lessons are only accessible via membership to certain associations. Government sites that used to be trusted sources of information are no longer available. If a teacher does find a set of lessons they like, they may have to spend additional time educating themselves on the subject if they don’t have a strong science background. This research can take hours, and our already over-worked and under-appreciated teachers have precious little time to spare. I want to help.”

The grant will help Malanka prepare a self-contained, four-week high school science course on climate change. It will provide all the materials necessary for the equivalent of three days per week in the classroom, including: a teacher’s handbook/primer on climate change, a basic instructional guide for teachers, and supplementary materials and an appendix of external references. Other materials will include a syllabus and four weeks of complete lectures, three weekly assignments, a grading rubric and more. For the final project the students calculate their carbon footprint, and they will also be asked to choose one action to reduce their carbon footprint that is specific to preserving something (clean air, water etc.) that they think is important.

“I want to make these all available at no cost for any teacher who wants access,” she says. “I have a deep passion for science education and I would be thrilled to provide an all-inclusive lesson plan that teachers can easily present in their class, confidently.  The only way to truly inspire someone is to get them to genuinely care about something.” Malanka wants to be sure as many teachers as possible have access to the right materials to help their students understand and have that opportunity to care.

Photo submitted by Malanka Riabokin @mysoulincolor