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GretaCoverSwedish teenager Greta Thunberg has inspired an enormous global youth movement pressuring world leaders to respond to the climate crisis in a way that reflects the scientific consensus of the existential threat to their own future, and of future generations.

Major climate action organizations such as, and authors like Naomi Klein have been doing everything they can to generate the kind of grass roots movement needed to force the transformational action the planet needs to survive. However, it may be that Greta’s role will prove to be the spark that was needed to motivate adults to act in time to reduce the effects of climate change enough to ensure a habitable world for future generations.

Greta Thunberg calls Asperger’s her super power

Greta is also having an important impact on people’s (children and adults) perception of people identified for Asperger’s syndrome. The following is an excerpt from Greta (find context here):

Without [Asperger’s] I wouldn’t have noticed this crisis,” she said. “Because everyone else, they saw the same thing, they saw the same pictures and films as I did, the destruction of nature and what was happening with the climate, but no one else seemed to really understand why their lives weren’t turned upside like mine was.

We [people on the autism spectrum] walk the walk,” she said. “We don’t have the distance from what we know and what we say and how we act. But to normal people, they have cognitive dissonance. I can’t understand how someone can say, ‘Yeah, climate change is very important,’ and not do something about it. If you know it, then you also know you have to do something.

Teachers may also choose to address this theme. Society tends to stigmatize difference. That stigma -- not the difference itself -- is so often the greatest barrier to those that differ from the ‘norm’. Greta’s words offer an opportunity for greater understanding here as well.

SWI in Context

Central to my work with schools is modeling how scientific investigation of the written word can be effectively used as leverage for learning about any content area. (See an archive of such examples drawn from my time at the Nueva School in the “Investigations” section on Real Spellers.)

I was finally motivated to create and share these resources on SWI in the context of the climate crisis as I prepared for flying to Australia for workshops in the midst of the catastrophic 2020 climate-fuelled fires. I shudder at my own climate footprint from all my flying. I’m looking into purchasing climate off sets for my flying, knowing that remains a very weak bandaid. 

I share these resources for SWI investigations as one way to spark further attention to this essential topic.

Working with this document

There is no intention that anyone tries to do all the lesson ideas provided here. Nor should you restrict yourselves to the words observations I share!

I am not giving great detail of ‘how to teach’ these investigations. Instead I hope people pick and choose launching pads that make sense to them. Essentially, I’m just offering some orthographic information about a set of words that teachers can draw from/revise as they wish. I’ve tried to provide some examples that will feel accessible to novices, but some of the content will be more juicy for people with more background.

Some of this information is new, and some is drawn from lessons I’ve done over the years. Please don’t assume that what I present is the “correct” or final analysis. I will be delighted if anyone finds an analysis they think is more coherent. If you find something you are wondering about feel free to email me at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>. If you provide evidence of a more coherent analysis, I’ll be delighted to update the resource with credit!

Bolded words signal words and word families I have created resources for after the speech. When those words, or related words are used later, I don’t bold them a second time.

With that, have a read of Greta’s speech, and enjoy seeing what else you can learn about her message, words and orthography in the process... 

Comments (1)

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I recently received this lovely message from an environmental group called Sofar Ocean.

I was delighted to find they discovered this Real Spellers post that so clearly targets their interests and that the were asking about linking to each others' work. Absolutely! This kind of connection just reinforces the value of using structured word inquiry instruction as a means of deepening understanding of content areas.

Also, I've posted this comment in this special 'interactive format' of my original post that Real Spellers webmaster Matt Berman put together. The text of my original piece is the same, but Matt has created this format so that the reader can click on the identified words (at right) for resources, and those links can also be found in the text of the post. I hope to collaborate with Matt for more of these interactive kinds of posts. If you like to print off and study such documents on paper, you can go to the original post for the WordWorks Newsletter #99 at THIS LINK.

Below is the message from Sofar Ocean and the link to their work. Let's keep the col + labor + ate/ + ing going!

Hi there,

I’m Alexander from the Sofar Ocean editorial team. We connect the world’s oceans to provide insights to science, society, and industry for a more sustainable planet.

I’m reaching out because your post caught our attention as we were searching for ocean temperature, marine ecosystem, environmental disaster, climate crisis, coral reef ecosystem-related topics.

I was wondering if you can link it to our piece How Does Climate Change Affect the Ocean since we are of the same wavelength and have the same type of readers.

You may tag it/backlink it to any relevant text in any of your articles that you deem relevant. As a token of good faith, the Sofar Ocean team would be happy to campaign your website and content across our social media channels.

Let me know what you think.


Alexander Brown

Peter Bowers
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