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Campus Conversations

Introduction

The purpose of Campus and Course Conversations is to provide a practical and powerful approach to support the rising spirit of citizens coming together, outside of the partisan bickering, to create new relationships, to spark opportunities and to encourage sustained engagement to address local and national challenges. It is an adaptation of Living Room Conversations where the conversation is taken one step further by converting the conversations students hold into action. The current topic of discussion is energy.

For Students

This activity will improve your communication skills, including skills that are valuable for any career, and increase your understanding of energy issues related to energy efficiency and renewable energies. Feeling cynical or apathetic about making our society better? Do you think writing to elected representatives doesn’t make a difference?

TRUE STORY - In one course section, three students called to ask a Senator to change his vote on a solar bill. On the third call the senator got on the phone and said: “Thank you for calling. I’m going to look into this.” Within two weeks he had changed his vote. There are many more stories just like this. Sometimes it really makes a difference to share your views with others, including your elected officials.

For Student Affairs

Why Should You Include This Activity? This activity:

  • Is easy to implement
  • Is interesting for students
  • Improves student engagement in getting to know each other across cultural and political divides, helping to reduce polarization and build understanding within our society
  • Increases learning about sustainability and includes the key components for effective learning (see Sustainability Improves Student Learning for more info)
  • Provides real world applications and critical thinking opportunities
  • Improves students’ communication and civil discourse skills, helping them become better change agents
  • Increases Civic Engagement and appreciation for democracy while reducing apathy

For a description of the activity, see the OVERVIEW/CHECKLIST and GUIDELINES/QUESTIONS. Of course, you can use this version as is or create your own adaptation.

For a description of the activity, see the OVERVIEW/CHECKLIST and GUIDELINES/QUESTIONS.

Complementary or alternative activities:
I CARE – I Care About Renewable Energies

I CARE – Have students set up a table in the dining hall entrance with a big sign that says “ICARE”. Another sign can explain this stands for “I Care About Renewable Energies.”

As students walk by, the students at the table ask them,

  1. “Do you want to see the US use more renewable energies such as solar energy and wind power?”
  2. “Where do you live? What is your zip code?”
  3. “Here is a phone and here is the phone number for your state legislators. Would you please call right now and tell them you want a Clean Power Plan with more renewable energies?”
    (Students can get the names for each state legislator from http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/. Phone numbers for the switchboard for each state legislator are at http://www.llsdc.org/state-legislation.)
  4. “Thank you.”

The above is an adaptation of a similar activity used previously at Carleton College.

For Instructors

Why Should You Include This Assignment in Your Course? The assignment:

  • Is easy to include and easy to grade
  • Is interesting and engaging for students
  • Improves student engagement in learning within your course (for more info, see Sustainability Improves Student Learning, a beginner’s handbook for faculty about educating for a sustainable future, why applied learning is empowering, and key pedagogies for a quality assignment)
  • Provides real world applications and critical thinking opportunities
  • Improves students’ communication and civil discourse skills
  • Increases Civic Engagement and appreciation for democracy while reducing apathy

How to include this assignment in your course:

  1. Insert the following into your syllabus as an Assignment:
    Campus Energy Conversations –”Go to Campus Conversations and click on the link for Students. Complete the assignment described there.”
  2. Include the assignment in your grading. Students are told their grade will consist of 3 elements:
    1. video clips of the conversation,
    2. feedback form, and
    3. letter to their elected representative communicating their views.

We recommend each component is worth 1/3 of the grade.

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