Jennifer Atkinson and California High School Students Channel Climate Anxiety into Climate Justice Solutions

To help students overcome hopelessness around climate change by focusing on justice-oriented action, Jennifer Atkinson has partnered with Northwood High School in Irvine, CA to guide students through the emotional rollercoaster of their environmental curriculum. Last fall, Atkinson worked with 70 students in Northwood High School’s “Interdisciplinary Climate Exploration” class to provide readings, hands-on classroom and community-based activities, and guest lectures that promote emotional resilience. The collaboration was facilitated by Nelly Tsai, a Science Teacher at Northwood High School and a University of Washington alum.

In one module, students completed a sculpture-based activity designed to activate the imagination while helping students process and develop new understanding about ecological and climate justice issues in a non-linguistic format. Students also listened to Atkinson’s podcast on climate anxiety, “Facing It”, and then contributed to a Choice Board that involved conversations with friends and family about difficult climate emotions.

After completing the term, one student wrote to express gratitude that Dr. Atkinson “cared so much about teenagers of today and their eco-grief. I am one of those teenagers with climate anxiety, and it felt really great to know that I was seen.” Another commented that he will now “always keep in mind how climate change and mental health have a reciprocal relationship, and that we need to prioritize both in order to create impactful change.”

Learn more about Atkinson’s work on climate anxiety.