If you think students at George Washington University are looking younger these days, you may have seen a group of juniors from Washington’s Calvin Coolidge High School, who came to GW to present their AP research relating to animal law as part of a unique partnership with the Animal Legal Education Initiative (ALEI) at GW Law.
The students were given lunch and a campus tour before making their presentations in the Jacob Burns Moot Court Room. Their visit was arranged after Jay Glassie, B.A. ’06, who teaches English at Coolidge High reached out to GW Law. (His father, Jeff Glassie, J.D. ’85, is an alumnus.)
The younger Glassie brought nine students from his AP seminar as part of the effort to teach them research writing. The subject area focus on animal law reflects his own interests. He and his wife have a rescue dog and two cats.
“My English Ph.D. was in animal narratives,” Glassie said. “And this is a really rich area for students to research. It trains them to have empathy and awakens them to thinking in a broader way about themselves and the world around them.”
With his AP seminar students, Glassie focuses less on writing about literature than on research writing: how to do research and write essays.
“If they’re going to go to college, they’re going to have to be able to do this research writing,” Glassie said. “We want to have the students learn research writing and start doing what we’re calling ‘action research,’ which is the idea that they would learn from people who are actually working on the things they’re learning about. And after the students do their research, the idea was that they would come back and present to the same people and organizations.”
Kathy Hessler, assistant dean for animal law, is the director of the new animal law initiative. She invited Glassie and his students to come to GW Law after he decided on the course focus.
“We just started in September,” Hessler said. “I’m creating a number of projects; the Coolidge project in partnership with Dr. Glassie is one. It was completely his idea. He was reaching out for animal expertise and wanted to get people to come and talk to the students and provide resources.”
Under Hessler’s direction, the new initiative hosted a fall symposium and will be hosting a spring symposium as well. The main reason for the partnership with Coolidge High, she said, is to help area students become aware of animal issues and support them on their path to higher education.
“We’re interested in helping them get into college,” Hessler said, “no matter what kind of work they end up doing. If they want to go into law, that’s fabulous—and if they want to go into animal law, that’s even better.”
Students are responding well to the topics in animal law, Glassie said.
“This course is opening their eyes to issues surrounding the food they eat,” he said. “It opens a doorway to a way of thinking about things that for a lot of them is really new.”
The Coolidge High students Glassie brought to GW were divided into three teams of three. One team studied the impact of the human infrastructure on animal habitats and ecosystems.
“I have enjoyed working on this, learning how much urban design and planning affects the environment and how we can try to change that,” said Jaeden Gbaba, who plans to become an aerospace engineer. “It affects the migration of certain animals, like whales and birds, and interrupts their breeding cycles.”
Solutions the team presented include electric technology to reduce noise of gas-powered technologies as well as increased use of solar panels and other renewable energy options. In a question period following the team’s presentation, Hessler asked if the students had looked at simpler solutions; they recommended biking, walking and using public transportation when possible.
Another Coolidge High junior, Natalie Montoya-Guardado, worked on a team researching ethical issues surrounding animal testing and experimentation. She plans to pursue a career in business management or interior design.
Montoya-Guardado noted that people often disagree about the morality of animal experimentation, with many saying the interests of humans should take precedence over the welfare of animals. “But cosmetic testing is not really beneficial and has no value,” Montoya-Guardado said, “so why are we continuing to do this?”
The remaining team focused on fast food addiction and its impact on humans and animals alike. Team member Kaleb Bland, whose career goal is to be a professional dancer, said he recognizes his own predilection for fast food and is aware of how fast food contributes to obesity and presents other risks, such as the inclusion of many additives. The team suggested more explicit labeling regarding the health risks associated with fast food might help mitigate the problem.
“Most fast-food workers are teens,” Bland said. “We also briefly talked about unionization for fast food workers as something that could possibly affect addiction.”