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Climate Change Education: Essential Information for Educators

Climate change, also known as global warming, has received much attention. It is also a source of much controversy. Yet while debate continues about how to best understand and manage our changing climate, scientists agree that it does have an impact. In fact, one of the essential principles of teaching climate change to students is the message that it has consequences for the earth and human lives.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), students should understand:

  • The effects of human-caused climate change can already be seen, for example in the melting polar ice caps. More consequences are expected, including the extinction of certain species and loss of forests.
  • Some of the infrastructure created by humans is in danger, such as the extra burden placed on the energy grid from high temperatures.
  • How the climate and precipitation patterns change can threaten agriculture and food security.

Teaching about climate change can be a challenge. For one, being too alarming can lead people to ignore or deny warnings. Also, the impact of climate change may not be relatable for many students. It helps to bring the lesson close to home as much as possible. For middle students, NOAA suggests talking about the effects of climate on animal habitats. Middle schoolers can also understand that there are solutions they can be a part of at home and school. Suggestions for high school students include using geography to study sea level or biology to study how species adapt. High schoolers can also use case studies to understand more complex climate solutions.

Students can learn that climate change is no longer just of interest to scientists. Insurance companies, emergency responders, the military and more are concerned about climate change. Students themselves can take an active role by learning about it today, and perhaps choosing a field in which they tackle climate change in the future.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network

Resources for Educators:

Teaching Climate, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
This section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website provides resources, information and guidance on teaching about climate. This website includes background information, strategies for engaging youth, teaching tools and professional development opportunities.
TEACHER RESOURCE

Climate Change Live: A Distance Learning Adventure
This website from the U.S. Forest Service and dozens of federal and non-governmental partners links to several resources, broken out by grades K-12. The vetted resources included vary in type, and include websites, lesson plans, activities and more.
WEBSITE, ALL AGES

Introduction to Earth’s Dynamically Changing Climate, NASA and PBS TeacherLine
This activity engages students in examining evidence of global warming throughout the globe.
ACTIVITY, ALL AGES

Climate Kids: NASA’s Eyes on the Earth, NASA 
The climate change section of this website offers content, links to games and a visually appealing discussion guide for teachers to present the evidence for climate change throughout the planet. WEBSITE, LINKS TO RESOURCES, ALL AGES

A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
This interactive website provides an overview of climate change.
ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE SCHOOL

Climate Change, Global Systems Science
This online textbook provides a detailed overview of climate change, with chapters covering government action on climate change, the history and controversy surrounding climate change, and the role greenhouse gases play.
HIGH SCHOOL, TEXTBOOK

A Brief Mathematical Guide to Earth Science and Climate Change, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
This resource offers a large collection of activities for grades 4-12. Teachers will find background information, problem and answer keys, discussion of alignment with standards, and a detailed table of contents for easy identification of activities.
ACTIVITIES, GRADES 4-12

Climate Change in my Backyard, Chicago Botanic Garden
This guide incorporates the NASA climate change curriculum to provide activities over four units.
ACTIVITIES, GRADES 7-9

Climate Change in my Backyard, Chicago Botanic Garden
This guide incorporates the NASA climate change curriculum to provide activities over four units.
ACTIVITIES, GRADES 10-12

Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, U.S. Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation and more
This website provides the guiding principles of climate change education, with resources listed for each principle for both middle and high school students. This link also posts the Climate Literacy Framework, a publication from the U.S. Global Research Program. This piece is a useful tool for bringing climate change education into the classroom.
WEBSITE, RESOURCES, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL

Global Climate Change: Understanding the Greenhouse Effect (Lesson 1), PBS Learning Media
This lesson involves studying climate change, the role of greenhouse gases and the impact human behavior has on global warming.
ACTIVITY, LESSON PLAN GRADES 9-12+

Global Climate Change: The Effects of Global Warming (Lesson 2), PBS Learning Media
Intended to follow the lesson, Global Climate Change: Understanding the Greenhouse Effect, students will conduct an experiment to learn about carbon dioxide levels found in four different gases. They will think about carbon dioxide on a global scale, looking at evidence of global warming. This lesson also involves thinking through how human behavior contributes to global warming.
ACTIVITY, LESSON PLAN, GRADES 9-12+

Evidence of Global Warming, KQED Education Network
This interactive web page provides an overview of global warming with clickable topics to learn about the evidence that it is taking place. There are also questions for students to consider included.
INTERACTIVE WEB CONTENT, GRADES 9-12

Talking to Children about Climate Change, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This web content provides an overview of climate change topics, and addresses strategies for explaining this complex issue to students. Links to additional information are included.
TEACHER GUIDE, ALL AGES


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