WARREN TWP. – One may not typically make the connection between climate change and Italian studies, or even know that the link existed.
But Watchung Hills Regional High School students did.
High school AP Environmental Science, Ecology, Environmental Club, AP Italian and Italian 4 Honors pupils participated in a collaborative multi-disciplinary project – part of the WorldCast 2022 Summit for High School Students on Local Environmental Problems – on Tuesday, March 22.
Italian is taught by Patti Grunther, Kathy Haines teaches AP Environmental Science and Marisa Walsh instructs Ecology.
“The idea for connecting Italian and science students came to me fairly naturally since I’ve been involved with the Silvio Laccetti Foundation in previous years,” Grunther said.
An educational non-profit organization, the Silvio Laccetti Foundation was established to present awards and other recognition to individuals or schools in a variety of academic specialized areas. The foundation presented this year’s summit.
At 9:30 a.m., Watchung Hills scholars gathered around a projector screen. Via Zoom, they viewed environmental projects put together by students from around the world.
More than 100 participants from New Jersey, Italy and even Brazil submitted projects centering on improving the environment.
Watchung Hills students Mason Di Giorgio (AP Italian), Spencer Ashnault (Italian 4 Honors), Gabriel Izeppi (Italian 4 Honors), Melissa Sabatella (Italian 4 Honors), Alexandra Chiu (Environmental Club), Savannah Bellovin (AP Environmental Science), Shiv Goel (AP Environmental Science and Ecology), Harrison Quinn (Ecology) all came together to create a presentation on the work of an award-winning Italian climate artist and photographer, Enzo Barracco.
The science students researched Barracco’s two bodies of work, “The Noise of Ice: Antarctica”and “The Skin of the Rock Galapagos.” Italian students interviewed him about global warming’s impact. They formatted the interview into a video that displayed Barracco’s photographs.
Ashnault, Di Giorgio, Izeppi and Sabatella translated the science students’ questions into Italian. After interviewing Barracco, the Italian students made transcripts of his answers and created video subtitles by translating the Italian into English.
“Barracco talked openly about his desire to photograph the southernmost continent because he was inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s three expeditions to Antarctica,” explained Director of Curriculum Mary Ellen Phelan. “Shackleton’s words served as a backdrop throughout the past months as the students began to take ownership of the ‘Now what?’ question.”
Just as Shackleton influenced Barracco to be an advocate for the planet, “we are likewise inspired by Barracco’s incredible work and hope he galvanizes you to find your voice,” Bellovin said.
“I still remember how tentative these students were the first time they came to meet Barracco, and view his wild and dramatic view of Antarctica,” Phelan said. “Today, these same students spoke with such a unified voice exuding confidence.”
She noted that months of work and planning went into the summit project’s completion.
Goel said it is essential to find intersectionality, “just as Barracco did.”
“Intersectionality, as defined by scholar and activist Kimberle Crenshaw, bridges a vast range of issues from climate change to racial injustices and women’s rights,” Goel said. “It is important to keep this value in mind when embarking on a journey as an activist, and we are thankful to Watchung Hills and Enzo Barracco for having given us the opportunity to do so.”
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