WARREN TWP. – The link between climate change and Italian studies is generally not made, or even it is known that the link existed.
But students at Watchung Hills Regional High School did.
Students from AP Environmental Science, Ecology, Environmental Club, AP Italian and Italian 4 Honors High School participated in a multi-disciplinary collaborative project – part of the 2022 WorldCast Summit for High School Students on Local Environmental Issues – on Tuesday, March 22.
Italian is taught by Patti Grunther, Kathy Haines teaches AP Environmental Science, and Marisa Walsh teaches Ecology.
“The idea of connecting Italian students and scientists came to me quite naturally since I was involved in the Silvio Laccetti Foundation in previous years,” said Grunther.
A non-profit educational organization, the Silvio Laccetti Foundation was created to provide awards and other recognition to individuals or schools in a variety of specialized academic fields. The foundation presented this year’s summit.
At 9:30 a.m., Watchung Hills scholars gathered around a projection screen. Via Zoom, they viewed environmental projects set up by students from all over the world.
More than 100 participants from New Jersey, Italy and even Brazil submitted projects focused on improving the environment.
Watchung Hills students Mason Di Giorgio (Italian AP), 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 award-winning Italian climate artist and photographer, Enzo Barracco.
The science students researched Barracco’s two works, “The Noise of Ice: Antarctica” and “The Skin of the Rock Galapagos”. Italian students interviewed him about the impact of global warming. 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 transcribed his responses and created video captions by translating the Italian into English.
“Barracco spoke openly about his desire to photograph the southernmost continent because he was inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s three expeditions to Antarctica,” said program director Mary Ellen Phelan. “Shackleton’s words have served as a backdrop over the past few months as students began to take ownership of ‘Now what?’ question.”
Just as Shackleton influenced Barracco to be an advocate for the planet, “we’re also inspired by Barracco’s incredible work and hope he inspires you to find your voice,” Bellovin said.
“I still remember how hesitant these students were the first time they came to meet Barracco and see his wild and dramatic vision of Antarctica,” Phelan said. “Today, those same students spoke with a unified voice that exudes confidence.”
She noted that months of work and planning went into completing the summit project.
Goel said finding intersectionality was key, “just like Barracco did.”
“Intersectionality, as defined by researcher and activist Kimberle Crenshaw, connects a wide range of issues from climate change to racial injustices and women’s rights,” Goel said. “It’s important to keep this value in mind when embarking on a journey as an activist, and we are grateful to Watchung Hills and Enzo Barracco for giving us the opportunity to do so.”