State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Meet Two Instructors of the Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains Program

sandra goldmark headshot
Sandra Goldmark is the Climate Action senior assistant dean for interdisciplinary engagement at the Columbia Climate School and the director of Campus Sustainability & Climate Action at Barnard College. She will be joining the ‘Green Mountains’ program this year for the first time, teaching about the circular economy.

This summer, we are thrilled to hold the third annual Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains program, which is designed for high school students hungry to drive positive impacts in their community in the face of climate change. This pre-college summer program is a two-week campus-based program in Castleton, Vermont, to mobilize action and effect change in response to our warming planet. During their time in the program, students network with experts from Columbia Climate School and learn about cutting-edge climate solutions and innovations in action. They meet like-minded students from around the world to build partnerships and tap into collective strengths for action.

Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains has enabled students to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to develop a climate action plan that they can bring to their communities. The program is thrilled to have Josh DeVincenzo of the National Center of Disaster Preparedness returning for a third summer, and Sandra Goldmark of Columbia Climate School and Barnard College joining us for the first time this summer!

Josh DeVincenzo headshot
Josh DeVincenzo is the senior project coordinator and instructional designer at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness of the Columbia Climate School. Josh has been a part of the ‘Green Mountains’ program since its inception during the summer of 2021. He teaches about disaster risk reduction and climate communication strategies.

In the Q&A below, Josh and Sandra share their experiences and their excitement to join Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains during summer 2023.

What will you teach at Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains?

Josh: I will teach a few different sessions about disaster risk reduction and climate communications strategies. I greatly enjoy teaching these topics to young people, partly because of the ingenuity with which they solve problems. Over the past few years teaching in the Climate School’s pre-college offerings, it has been inspirational to me and my work to hear all the new ideas young people put out there in the sessions. It is gratifying to workshop their ideas to get them closer to actionable steps toward addressing the issues and causes they care the most about in their communities.

Sandra: I will teach the Circular Economy; we’ll explore how we design, make, distribute, and dispose of “stuff,” and how the current global patterns of production and consumption affects people and planet. We’ll discuss the impacts of linear and wasteful practices, and delve into the intersecting benefits of circular, sustainable alternatives.

What is the importance of engaging high school students with climate change challenges and solutions?

Josh: Especially regarding climate-related disaster impacts, it is vital to engage high school students to be fully prepared as disasters become more frequent and severe. However, it is important to focus on the approaches and generation of new ideas to help lessen the impacts of disasters on communities. Previous high school students have been able to begin right away to make their communities more prepared by thinking through types of hazards, impacts, and how to engage multiple stakeholders.

Sandra: Today’s high school students will be grappling with climate challenges, and tasked with building equitable solutions, all too soon. I love working with young people on these issues because they are curious, open to change, and eager to get to work.

What do you hope for students to gain from this program?

Josh I hope students can gain new insights into disasters and the impact of disasters on society. I hope they can develop a justice lens in examining disaster events worldwide and skills in thinking about disaster recovery over time periods and impact levels. These skills help us better understand community preparedness and disaster recovery.

Sandra: I hope that students understand that circularity is an incredibly powerful tool — and that it is accessible and deployable right now at multiple scales. Circular economy principles are ancient, and intuitive, and can be implemented by individuals, schools, and communities, with immediate benefits in terms of waste reduction and local jobs. I also hope that students will understand how these benefits scale up and must be a part of global climate response.

What do you hope to gain from this program?

Josh: I always gain a lot of perspective each summer in the program. Students are bringing in such wonderful experiences and essential questions about thinking through climate change. After each trip up to Vermont, I return with several new ideas and ways to make my teaching in the field and in the classroom more engaging and relevant.

group of students gathered for a photo outside
The ‘Green Mountains’ Summer 2022 student cohort.

Sandra: I hope to test and refine a number of hands-on activities and exercises that I have built.

What are you most excited for this summer?

Josh: Each summer, we do a disaster tabletop exercise where we simulate how we would respond to a disaster in real time. I am excited to see what the students come up with this year. Last summer, we even saw disaster communications strategies that involved TikTok for the first time.

Sandra: I hope to find ways to get students working hands-on, with ideas that they can take home with them to their communities, and forward as they develop into climate leaders

Josh DeVincenzo leads students through a tabletop exercise to simulate disaster response.

What do you think has been or will be the most influential component of the program?

Josh: The program is one of a kind. Even as an instructor, I am blown away by the lineup of my fellow instructors and the material that is put together for this program. It is also a terrific environment that does not necessarily feel like a traditional class, but instead, we are all coming up with ideas and exchanging thoughts on climate with a fantastic Vermont backdrop.

Sandra: I think time working on challenges together, working collaboratively and spending time together outside will be one of the most important things the students will experience.

Learn more

Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains will run from July 2 to July 14, 2023, in Castleton, Vermont. Begin your application and review application requirements.

Looking for a climate-themed travel program? We also offer the Columbia Climate Corps, which combines travel with in-depth educational opportunities across the United States and overseas to experience a destination through the lens of climate change and focus on location-specific themes:

  • Chile and Argentina: Climate Impacts and Risk, July 22 – August 11, 2023
  • Alaska: Climate Communication and Exploration, July 17 – July 28, 2023
  • IcelandCarbon Capture Technology, July 20 – August 1, 2023

Schedule a one-on-one appointment at your convenience to speak to a representative of the pre-college programs.

Stay updated by joining our mailing list for all pre-college summer programs and academic year online workshops.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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