Jen's MEM Journey

Am I smarter than a 5th grader?
by Jennifer Weiss -- January 31st, 2011

So, tell me …. how would YOU describe global warming to a 10 year old?

The quest for a great internship is on and as the 1st year MEMs frantically apply and interview, I have to share one of the most thought provoking interview questions that I’ve had for a long time.  I was 2/3 of the way through a recent internship interview when this question came at me from out of the blue:

“How would you describe global warming to a 5th grader?”

Thanks to my fabulous Nick School career services coaches, I was prepared to answer many questions about my work experience, my strengths and weaknesses, and my decision to return to graduate school.  I was even prepared to talk though my five year hiatus from work to stay home with my children.  But, I was totally unprepared for this question.  I think my jaw actually dropped (although I’m hoping I’m wrong).  During the time it took me to compose myself, here’s just a glimpse of the acrobatics that my mind went through:

Ummm …. How old is a 5th grader?  My daughter is 7 and in 2nd grade … that would make a 5th grader 10 years old?  Okay, I’ll go with that …

So … 5th graders take science classes, right?  I wonder if they know what CO2 is?   Wait a minute, I haven’t had my Energy & Environment class yet – I’m not even sure that I know what CO2 is!

Let’s move on to Plan B …. “You know all that snow we’ve been getting?  Well it’s due to global warming.”  No, any 10 year old worth his weight will see through that argument.

Okay, here goes (deep breath):   “Have you ever been inside a greenhouse?”

Later, as I reflected on what I could have said to more intelligently answer this question, it occurred to me that this question could be asked “How would you describe global warming to your neighbor?  Or to your mother?”   It is a difficult thing to explain to the environmentally uneducated which is precisely why the U.S. population is so confused by the entire subject.

But, I promise that I will come up with a succinct (and clever) response to this question.  I have to  – there are a lot of 5th graders out there looking for the answer.

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