Ohio University

Ohio University leads national dialogue on "Teaching, Learning and Reporting about Science in Times of Public Mistrust"

Ohio University leads national dialogue on "Teaching, Learning and Reporting about Science in Times of Public Mistrust"
Published: October 30, 2017 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University will set the national stage on Tuesday, Nov. 7, as The New York Times joins Ohio University’s Patton College of Education, with participation from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and Voinovich School of Leadership & Public Affairs, for an interactive forum – Teaching, Learning and Reporting about Science in Times of Public Mistrust.

The panel discussion, to be held within the Baker University Center Theater on OHIO’s Athens Campus, will focus on teaching, learning and reporting about climate change and other current scientific issues from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“In the foothills of Appalachia, there is a broad spectrum of cultural diversity and ideological thought. It is important to invite discussion around challenging dialogues that relate to the contemporary issues our region and our country are facing,” said Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis. “We learn together from such challenging conversations and thereby affirm our commitment to intellectual diversity. I am pleased that The New York Times selected OHIO as the site to host this important dialogue.”

The New York Times national correspondent Amy Harmon, who has written several articles about a Southeast Ohio teacher’s attempts to educate students about climate change, will serve on a discussion panel. Other panel members include Jim Sutter, the subject of Harmon’s research who is a Wellston High School science teacher and graduate of The Patton College’s Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program; Dr. Sami Kahn, assistant professor of science education within The Patton College’s department of teacher education; and Dr. Bernhard Debatin, professor of environmental and science journalism within the Scripps School of Journalism. Current and former Wellston High School and Ohio University students will also be in attendance.

“Having The New York Times recognize our alumnus and faculty for outstanding teaching practices is a testament to The Patton College’s Clinical Model of Preparation,” said Renée A. Middleton, Dean of The Patton College of Education. “Instead of judging someone’s background or quality of life, we teach that it is important to understand and appreciate the differences between and among us – and then adjust teaching methods as a result. James Sutter did just that. He is a prime example of what we mean when we say our faculty, students, and alumni are CALLED to Lead.”

Sutter realized he needed to work harder to relate to his students’ lived experiences as he taught them about science. He set a plan into place, beginning with a field trip to a wooded area and stream near the school, to show students how climate change was affecting their immediate environment, whether it was the preponderance of emerald ash borers, heavy rainfall, flooding or neon-orange water samples, which, according to pH tests, were as acidic as white vinegar. 

It worked. By localizing the lesson plan, Sutter impacted his students in ways data and documentaries could not. While some of Sutter’s students remained climate skeptics, many changed their views on the matter, with some even doing “a 180.” 

The panel lasts from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., followed by a reception until 9 p.m. Attendees can submit panel questions in advance, with a moderator asking questions during the event. The event will be live-streamed on The Patton College’s YouTube Channel.