Teaching environmental justice with data: Successes and struggles

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm Quad
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Jabari Jones, Bowdoin College
Environmental justice has received increasing attention in the geosciences in recent years, following broader social calls for justice. However, existing resources for teaching environmental justice are primarily found in environmental studies or philosophy, and focus on the social and philosophical underpinnings of the environmental justice movement, rather than the data considerations and quantitative skills used to evaluate questions of (in)justice.
In Spring 2023, I developed a course titled Quantifying Environmental Justice to address this gap in student preparation. The course was intended as a data-driven take on environmental justice, where students would learn data literacy, specific analytical skills, and how to think critically about the role of data in evaluating complex questions. As with any new course, there were successes and struggles.
Successes: Students engaged deeply with the material, we had deep and expansive discussions, I developed a number of new labs using real-world data, we invited guests from multiple disciplinary backgrounds, and we worked collaboratively on a novel project that was driven by student interest.
Struggles: Teaching coding to a group of students with minimal coding experience, balancing philosophical and quantitative topics, difficulties of small class size (3 students), and data availability.
Despite these struggles, students enjoyed the class and felt that the topics and skills prepared them to think critically about data and to consider environmental justice in their curriculum and their community.