Carolina Biological OSE – April 2024


Forums / Earth and Space Science / Teaching Climate Change

Earth and Space Science

Teaching Climate Change

Author Post
Shalen Boyer Shalen Boyer 5740 Points

I'd love to hear how other teachers explore this topic with their students.  I'm thinking of having my students choose whether they think the current climate change is "naturally occurring" or "man-made" and debate their viewpoint. What are some ways you incorporate this topic into your classroom?

Dave Moran Dave Moran 60 Points

I have been trying to increase the Environmental Literacy of my students. I start the beginning of the year off with a unit in understanding research and it's importance for the decision making process. By the time I get to the Climate Change unit, students have had experience in researching area topics of interest. I like the idea of debating a topic and dividing classrooms into 2 groups: the pros and cons of a topic. Students research and then present their groups "case" on their topics side. Afterwards, we have a class discussion and determine if anyone who had an opinion one way or another and changed it because of the other sides information. For the topic of Climate Change, one group of students supports the concept of climate change and must support their reasoning and the second group is against it, and must support their view. Students are encouraged to use a variety of resources and must cite them. During the discussions, we talk more about the importance of research and making informed decisions.  

Lana McComb Lana McComb 50 Points

This such an important topic and it can be so hard to get the conversation started. The scale of the global discussion and research is overwhelming. I'm sure the approach will depend on what grade your students are. I teach environmental science for high school students in Iowa and I like to start the discussion by 'shrinking' the topic down to our state. Focusing on Iowa (or even on a particular region of the country) can help provide a narrower focus for the data sets and research that the students will be exploring. An Iowa author and ecologist named Claudia Mutel just published a book called 'A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland'. It is a great read that combines scientific evidence and observations taken from Mutel's own backyard. Parts of this book would be applicable to any location in the Midwest. If you're not located in the Midwest, perhaps there is a similar book or resource for your area. 

Dave Moran Dave Moran 60 Points

Thank you Lana for sharing the book resource. I had not heard of it, and living in the Midwest, am looking forward to reading it.

Katie Keller Katie Keller 60 Points

Yes, thank you.  Even though I'm in Upper Michigan I think that this is a book that could potentially be added to our growing climate change library at work.

Jaida Bennett Jaida Bennett 3730 Points

Teaching students to be aware of various climate changes and the affects it has on the habitats of animals and the environment around us is extremely important. It isn't as difficult as it may seem to get the topic started. Once a discussion is held about the temperature, everything else should fall into place. One activity I think is pretty neat is having students record the temperature everyday for a month (students can watch the news to find this data). The students can compare the temperatures by finding the difference between them everyday, week or year (students can look at data and find the temperature for any given day within that month that the recent data was taken). They can see the affect that climate change has on their area and write about what they observed. This activity shows them small-scale climate change in their surroundings. 

Lana McComb Lana McComb 50 Points

I like your suggestion of starting small and local with something like temperature changes over time especially since it is incorporating data collection and interpretation. Have you ever had any of the more contentious feelings that surround climate change come up in your classroom, perhaps as students bring up what they may have heard at home or even from parents who are upset that climate change is being addressed in the classroom? How have you handled this with the students and/or their parents?

Steve Kirsche Stephen Kirsche 9145 Points

I have always tread lightly with this topic due to its contentious nature. We are currently incorporating AVID strategies in our school and I am hoping to use this topic for philosophical chairs. This is where students will hold a Socratic seminar type discussion about both sides of the issue. 

Debra Gilbert Debra Gilbert 125 Points

There is a great online curriculum/interactive/labs called 'Earthlabs' which has created several online modules dealing with Climate change. - this is the site for educators (gives background & lists where data comes from) - this is the student site (interactives, videos, labs, data)
These modules use data bases from NASA, NOAA, EPA, USGS and is just amazing.  I've used these modules with my students for the past 5 years & I've trained teachers on some of the modules.  The hardest thing to do is to figure out what to use because there is so much awesome material.  Earthlabs has also constructed modules on hurricanes, coral reefs and drought that are also great.  You cannot go wrong with any of the modules from both an educator viewpoint & student viewpoint.  Just be sure to give yourself enough time to sort through all the great material.

Katie Keller Katie Keller 60 Points

I like to talk about changes occurring in the environment in general, not those specifically labeled "climate change," since there can be personal, contentious thoughts and feelings involved.  As mentioned previously, having students collect their own data about temperature, precipitation, etc. and comparing it to historical data is a great way to get a conversation started.  Then transitioning into the effects a changing climate is having upon different environmental resources that students can experience and know on a local scale.  Such a lesson could incorporate critical thinking that encourages students to think about the choices they and their families make and the effects that they have, without giving it a contentious label.  The label is not as important as being able to critically think and analyze this issue.   

Katie Keller Katie Keller 60 Points

After thinking some more about the "contentious" nature of climate change, I had some thoughts about it.  Climate change can definitely be a contentious issue, but I just wonder how many educators have encountered this with a student audience in the classroom?  Or if there has been any feedback from guardians of students that have participated in climate change lessons?  In addition, I'm also curious if any school districts have taken a formal position on climate change?     

Dave Moran Dave Moran 60 Points

I have not heard of any school district in our area taking a formal stance on Climate Change. As far as any environmental issues, our High School here in Northern Wisconsin, is using solar panels for heating their swimming pool water. The water flows through the panels and is heated a few degrees by the sun. The school also has a few photoelectric panels to help with electricity costs. As far as any contention around Climate Change, students who voice their opinion seem to feel the Earth's climate is cyclic in nature. I'm afraid I haven't collected any information as to whether guardians are influencing this thought process or not.

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers