Assignments, Modules & Activities

ASSIGNMENT:  Action-in-Place

The purpose of this assignment is to engage students in local, personal actions that emerge from their own sense of what needs to change in the world. It’s a great assignment for initial brainstorming and foraying into moving from despair to action. It’s great for emergent-level efforts, not activist or mastery-level efficacy.

WORKSHOP:  Change-Vision-Action (inspired by adrienne maree brown and Abby Reyes, and revised here by Sarah Jaquette Ray.)

This assignment takes at least 2-3 weeks of class time: one week for preparation, one week for execution, and one week for debrief)

ASSIGNMENT:  Change Agent Manifesto writing assignment (from Sarah Jaquette Ray)

PROJECT: Is this how you feel? — on expressing emotions around climate change.

ACTIVITY:  How to set the tone with emotion and classroom-as-community (from Janelle Adsit’s English course on Environmental Writing)

ASSIGNMENT:  Eulogy Essay and Reading (from Joshua Barnett)

Purpose: attending to the loss and degradation of more-than-human beings and places

EXERCISES:  Exercises for Sensing Eco-Social Entanglements (adapted from Sarah Kanouse)

Note:  This set of exercises includes a walking meditation, a guided sensation medication, and a soundwalk meditation.

EXERCISES:  A Meditation Manifesto and Workshop Exercise (Nicole Seymour – adapted from Sarah Kanouse)

Note:  This exercise consists of a guided meditation that asks participants to sense the energy infrastructure surrounding them.

EXERCISE:  How Does the Anthropocene Feel? (Or, Deep Time Meditation) (from Astrida Neimanis)

note:  This exercise provides an adaptable script for a guided meditation that asks students/participants to envision their “groundedness” in the time and space of the Anthropocene.

POWERPOINT:  Privilege, Power, and the Environment. Janelle Adsit. (PDF)

ACTIVITY:  Open Sentences Activity (from Laura Johnson – inspired by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown)

The Open Sentences activity comes from the Work that Reconnects framework, created by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown. I open nearly all of my classes with this activity, which asks students to connect deeply and intimately with one another and to tap into their gratitude and their heartbreak, which I find students often realize are deeply connected to one another. 

This is an overview of the Open Sentences activity online at Work that Reconnects

The way I structure it is: I ask students to choose a partner, just someone they’re sitting beside; to BRIEFLY introduce themselves; and to decide who is person 1 and who is person 2. I let them know that when I ring the bell, I’ll provide them with an open sentence prompt that Person 1 should respond to. During the 2-3 minutes that Person 1 is responding, Person 2 is asked to deeply listen, without mentally preparing their own responses or otherwise getting lost in thought. When I ring the bell, Person 2 responds to the prompt, and Person 1 in turn listens deeply. When I ring the bell again, I provide a second prompt, and we continue in this way for three rounds. The prompts I use are:

  1. What I love about being alive is…
  2. What breaks my heart about the world is…
  3. Some things I want to do or learn are…

I find that the dialogue that ensues is nearly always explosive, that students who were strangers are immediately sharing their deepest joys and heartbreaks and dreams. 

When we’re done I ask the class as a whole to call out things they talked about that they love about being alive, and then things they shared that break their hearts. Then we go around the room and introduce ourselves to each other, incorporating our name, where we’re from, our major, etc., and then sharing one thing they talked about that they want to do or learn. This is always a lovely time to identify shared goals and dreams, and sometimes interesting connections are made in this way as well!

MODULE:  Curious, Compassionate Conversation (from Sarah Jaquette Ray).

The purpose of this module is to build bridges across difference and turn stressful conversations into relationship-building experiences. Students must do some work with their classmates and professor to get prepared for doing the assignment outside of class. Instructors then must designate debriefing time, in whatever form they prefer (writing, discussion, etc).