Congressman Talks with Upper School Environmental Science Class
Seniors in the Upper School Climate Science and Environmental Politics course hosted Congressman Mike Quigley for a discussion this week. Congressman Quigley, who represents Illinois’ 5th District, has long had a focus on issues of the environment and sustainable energy and was named vice-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) for the 115th Congress.
Congressman Quigley’s position and history made him a perfect visitor for this unique course. Co-taught by Upper School science teacher Ryan Zaremba and History Department Chair Andrew Bigelow, the class focuses on the science of climate change on Monday and Tuesday, reserves Wednesday for labs or guest speakers and finishes the week focusing on the environmental justice lens. In addition to learning the science behind climate change, the class has read “All We Can Save,” featuring essays by women who are scientists and activists; has been listening to the podcast “How to Save a Planet”; and “explored the role of the federal and state government when it comes to the environment, water, land and energy,” according to Bigelow.
Congressman Quigley began by sharing his history, including an anecdote about how his journey to politics began in a situation much like this—a representative visited to speak with his class—before speaking on climate change and steps to save the planet moving forward. From there, he engaged in a lengthy conversation and “answered some tough questions from these incredibly sharp students.” Questions ranged from the difficulties in enacting legislation in an increasingly divided political atmosphere to campaign financing and political donations from corporations, from his thoughts on regulating the energy power grid to ways for people to make a difference on local and national levels.
Having a discussion with Congressman Quigley, who is playing a direct part in shaping our nation’s policy on climate change and the environment, was a tremendous opportunity for our students and one they won’t forget any time soon. These types of experiences are perfect examples of the ways our master teachers bring the outside in for our students and provide them with real-life examples of how they can become responsible citizens and leaders in our society. “His message was to not only care about educating yourself on these issues,” Bigelow said, “but also help spread the word and even consider running for office and really making a change!”