On Friday, April 20th, the KnowledgeLab and Smith College Libraries hosted Talking Truth @ Smith: Finding Your Voice Around the Climate Crisis. This was a day dedicated to talking about climate change and featured workshops, activities, and discussion in five different events. The goal was to provide a space where students and community members could engage with others on their thoughts and feelings about the changing environment and how they can stay informed. The KnowledgeLab had a great turnout as many participants arrived early and stayed throughout the day.
Virtual Reality Experience
During the first event, participants got to play a game in virtual reality on the KnowledgeLab’s Vive that taught them about the effects of climate change-induced ocean acidification on coral reefs. This was a very popular portion of the day – around fifteen students and community members were able to experience the game. Afterward, several people shared insightful feedback on a discussion board. Many of them had never used VR before and thought it was “surprisingly realistic and interactive.” Another player commented that “being immersed helped me understand ocean acidification issues.” The element of realism especially helped with this, and one person thought the game, or VR in general, might be helpful in academic settings “to help people visualize somewhat abstract concepts.”
Finding Your Purpose
At the next event, Madeleine Charney, co-founder of UMass’s Talking Truth, shared her personal journey of incorporating discussion around climate change into her career as a librarian. She encouraged following one’s inner compass, or trusting one’s gut, and always taking time to be mindful of what is most important in one’s life without being clouded by everyday distractions and routines.
Identity & Place
Up next was an interactive event on personal discovery in relation to how the natural environment influences our sense of place, and how sense of place affects our identity. Directed by Jodi Shaw, participants were instructed to answer one or several of many questions about their childhood home. They could write about a particular space within their home and why it was particularly meaningful to them, draw a picture of the space or diagram of the block where they lived, or reflect on their transition from home to Smith and the emotions associated with that. Several people shared their writing or drawing with the rest of the group.
Neilson & Sustainability
The next event was run by Janet Spongberg and Kay Colletti who talked about plans for the New Neilson Library and how it will facilitate future conversations and scholarship about climate change. The group discussed how to define “sustainability” and how the New Neilson will support sustainability in all its forms. Discussion also turned to what the most important aspects of a library are from the perspectives of students, faculty, and staff. The consensus was that a library should be a physical and social space in which learning and sharing of knowledge can occur in the most inclusive space possible.
Zine Making Workshop
At this final event, participants wrote letters to future Smithies, specifically regarding their feelings about climate change. This workshop was designed to facilitate intergenerational communication about a topic that will always be relevant and important. Current Smithies relayed their hopes and worries to those following in their footsteps so that future Smithies can use their comments to effect change in their own lives and reflect on the changing perspectives of each generation.