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Channeling My Climate Anxiety Into My Coursework

With 60 degree days in February in Boston, trees budding early, and a general sense of impending climate disaster making itself more felt with every passing day, I have started to enter the climate anxiety or eco-anxiety zone. Sarah Lowe, a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at Yale, defines climate anxiety as “distress about climate change and its impacts on the landscape and human existence”1, and Anthony Leiserowitz, the founder and Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Senior Research Scientist at Yale School of the Environment, says that 27% of Americans say they are very worried about climate change.2

In general I consider myself an optimist and believe in the power of individual actions in tandem with structural/policy changes, but lately have felt increasingly anxious and powerless in regards to the clear signs of climate change and its effects. However, my optimism tends to win out, so I’ve decided to channel my climate anxiety into all of my coursework for this semester–something I’ve decided to refer to as my “climate semester” but also “living my best hippie life.” This semester I’m taking three classes: Museum Education for K-12 Audiences, Exhibition Planning, and Children as Earth Stewards, all of which have seamlessly allowed me to fulfill my goal of making all of my assignments climate change/nature related.

As the course title reveals, the Museum Education for K-12 Audiences class focuses on the vastly diverse audience demographic we refer to as K-12, which typically brings to mind school groups, but includes scout and other youth groups, as well as the adults that come along with these children. The first assignment for the class was to pick a badge from either the Girl or Boy Scouts and then choose a museum and utilize their collections to create a unique and engaging program for the scout group that meets all of the badge’s requirements so that at the end of your program, the scouts will have earned that badge.

I chose to do the Girl Scouts’ “Flowers” badge and pair it with the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA. It was a fun project to research and put together because even though I had prior knowledge of Dickinson’s poetry about flowers or with floral motifs and her love of gardening, I was surprised to find more and more connections between her interests and hobbies and the badge requirements. My interdisciplinary approach prioritized scientific concepts as well as poetry, which included an activity where scouts would sit in the garden behind the Homestead and observe a flower of their choosing for ten minutes, then spend ten minutes composing a poem about or inspired by their flower, then share with the group, if they’re feeling courageous. Though not specifically geared towards inspiring action on climate change, the program I planned for this assignment does foster connection to nature, which is an important step to becoming an advocate for the planet.

As one might have guessed from the title, the Exhibition Planning course is set up so that at the end of the class everyone has planned an exhibition from scratch. The exhibit I’m working on is centered on the connections between picture book art and nature and how those early connections to nature can encourage children to become climate advocates. Given that the exhibit is entirely made up and I can do whatever I want, my make-believe exhibit will be co-curated with children, including exhibit labels. The artwork in the exhibit would be organized into three categories, which are types of depictions of nature based on communities: urban, suburban, and rural. My line of thinking is that if children see nature depicted in their communities they’ll realize that nature is everywhere, that humans are part of nature, and in turn, would feel empowered to advocate for climate solutions in their life. We’re still in the early planning stages, but empowering youth, making room for youth voices in museums, and advocating for climate solutions and nature connection are all things I’m passionate about and art–especially picture book art!–is such a powerful tool for change.

Least museum-y of all is the Children as Earth Stewards class, which is an education course that focuses on ways in which to foster connection to nature and develop children as advocates for the planet. Clearly a topic very up my alley. There are numerous projects I’ll be doing for this class, but one I’m particularly excited about is the eco-literacy project . The eco-literacy project involves choosing a topic about the environment or natural processes (desertification, the water cycle, keystone species, etc.) and a target age group as the audience and then creating an educational material for that audience about that topic. Given the flexibility of the project and my interests, I’m planning to create pre-visit materials (namely a lesson and slideshow) for a class of middle schoolers who are theoretically preparing for a field trip to the Arnold Arboretum. The topic will be keystone plants,3 which is a concept attributed to entomologist Douglas Tallamy, whose research has shown that some genera of plants are the most productive and support the most species, for example, one of Massachusetts’ keystone plants is New England Asters.4 

While I don’t necessarily consider myself an environmentalist, I am happy to have a chance to spend an entire semester thinking of ways that not only I can bring up environmental topics and consider my role in advocating for climate solutions, but also how to bring these topics to my professional work and career. There are so many exciting opportunities to connect environmentalism and sustainability to the museum field and I look forward to continuing to advocate for solutions and youth empowerment when and where I can.

The picture featured at the top of the post is the area above my desk, which I refer to as my “inspiration board.” It has pictures from exhibits I admire, artwork from some of my favorite picture book illustrators, quotes I love, and more!

[1] “Yale Experts Explain Climate Anxiety.” Yale Sustainability, March 13, 2023. https://sustainability.yale.edu/explainers/yale-experts-explain-climate-anxiety.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Container Gardening with Keystones.” Homegrown National Park, November 30, 2023. https://homegrownnationalpark.org/keystone-container-gardening/?gad_source=1#81.

[4] “Container Gardening Keystone Plants List.” Homegrown National Park, n.d. https://hgnp.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/HNP-CONTAINER-GDN-L.2_8.1s.pdf 


Museum Job Roundup 2/26/2024

Welcome to the weekly roundup! We do our best to collect the latest job openings and welcome submissions from the community. For more opportunities, we recommend the following databases:






How Historical Costuming Changed My View of History

Sometime in early 2020, I came across a video that changed how I approach history. In this video, costumer Bernadette Banner was constructing an Edwardian walking skirt to wear around her native NYC. While at the time I had no idea what a bias was, center seams, or really any idea how to sew beyond simple embroidery, I found myself drawn to this world of history as she narrated. Not only was she showing her reference patterns, she explained how women would wear these long garments, as well as how to read clothing for the history and culture of the time. There was so much to learn about the textiles that went into extant garments and how the quality of the textile was so important. Clothing had more Easter eggs than a Taylor Swift music video, and honestly the approach to dressing made more sense than our modern ways. The more I watched Banner, the more I was exposed to other historians such as Abby Cox. She truly opened the door to understanding how people in history were actually exceptionally smart, even if there were no iPads or internet. 

We often think about people in history as being stupid, purely because they didn’t know the same things we know today. George Washington died just before the first dinosaur bones were discovered, germ theory didn’t exist when the plague hit, and people didn’t bathe in tubs for a long time. But this doesn’t mean that people were dumb and dirty. For example, the outer layers of a woman’s clothing was often re-worn several times before it was washed. And it was not because the fabric was like your jeans and you were concerned about the fabric stretching or the dye coming out. There was strategy

Instead of having your nice expensive garments touching your body and getting sweat and oils on it, multiple underlayers would be worn. Depending on the period in history, there would be a lightweight linen shift or chemise and some form of support garment for the bust. In the middle ages it was a kirtle, in the 1700s it was a pair of stays, and in the 1800s it was a corset. These garments were designed to provide support, take pressure off the back, and give clothing smoother lines. There was no need to suck in your stomach or do extra ab workouts!

These underlayers not only protected you from the outside, they also protected your clothing from you. Linen and cotton (natural fibers) are exceptionally breathable and dry quickly when the wearer is sweating or exposed to more heat. Underlayers like the shift would be rotated out daily and washed consistently. Things like the stays or corset would be washed less frequently, but still more often than the outer layers. If you think about it, women at this time washed their undergarments more frequently than most women today do. (seriously, ask a friend how often she washes her bras.) 

In the 1700s, women didn’t wash their hair as often (maybe once a week or two), but they used the equivalent of a hair mask and dry shampoo to protect the hair from the world and handle oils. Cox went as far as to spend a year doing this method, and documented how her hair felt mostly the same as it did with her modern hair routine. She also did an in depth exploration into shapewear and how if women in history didn’t match the shape of the day, they could modify their clothing to look like they had a tiny waist or a flat chest or whatever was en vogue for the time. Women weren’t pressured to change their bodies like they are now. If you were pregnant or bloated, you could let out your corset. Trying to attract a man at a ball? Add more hip padding so your waist looks snatched. Fashions would stay on trend for years at a time, garments were made to last, and if you are following along and counting, this means that women only needed a few items of clothing to last through their whole adulthood. 

I would not call myself a stylish person by any means, but I love watching historical sewing videos. Not only have they given me perspective on how slow fashion has worked throughout history, they’ve changed how I think of people in history. They may not have known about germs or dinosaurs, but they were smart and strategic – down to their undergarments.

Museum Job Roundup 2/19/24

Welcome to the weekly roundup! We do our best to collect the latest job openings and welcome submissions from the community. For more opportunities, we recommend the following databases:






Dates for the Museum Romantic

If you’re looking for museum dates to set the mood for romance or just a fun time with friends, we’ve got you covered with our Valentine’s Day roundup.

Harvard Museum of Natural History

If you enjoy making fun of bad taxidermy with your partner or admiring a room full of sparkling gems, this is the spot for you. Bonus points if you buy a Valentine’s gift from the top tier gift shop.

Museum of Science

Hands-on learning always makes for a fun date (wink)! The Museum of Science offers plenty of opportunities to engage in fun discovery with your partner. Check out the Garden Walk for a little bit of Spring in February.

Isabella Stewart Gardner

Lovers of mystery and true crime might enjoy the site of the famous heist, still the single largest property theft in the world. Sleuthing aside, touring the grand rooms of the Gardner and looking out over the courtyard is enough to make anyone swoon

Boston Athenaeum

If you’re looking for book-filled romance straight out of Beauty and the Beast, the Boston Athenaeum is the perfect date for bibliophiles. Founded in 1807, the Athenaeum is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. Visitors can buy a pass for admission to the first floor or level up your date with a day membership.

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