Engaging Environmental Justice through Art Objects

August 16, 2021

How might art objects generate nuanced conversations about ecological devastation and environmental justice? This interactive workshop invites STEM, social sciences, humanities, and arts faculty to broaden class discussion strategies by looking at ecology and sustainability through the lens of photography, sculpture, printmaking, and other art forms. This approach helped educators move beyond the strictly quantitative aspects of Environmental Studies, and into the terrain of Environmental Justice – that is, which populations and regions are disproportionately affected by waste streams and other aspects of climate collapse.

We will explore how object-based teaching can enhance almost all modes of classroom dialogue. The workshop will focus on both in-person and remote approaches for using The Nature of Waste: Material Pathways, Discarded Worlds, a semester-long exhibition this fall at the Sheldon Museum of Art.

Participants engaged in guided discussions and brainstorming activities using these artworks. The workshop had two distinct goals:

  • To tailor classroom facilitation tactics -- such as active listening and open-ended questioning -- to stimulate sensitive qualitative questions about the environment; and
  • To offer strategies for both early-career and seasoned educators to use artworks to drive these class discussions.