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Climate Change Education: Essential Information for Educators

Overcome the challenges of teaching climate change and help students understand it is an issue no longer just of interest to scientists.
Published: June 24, 2020

The National Education Association recognizes the scientific consensus that global climate change is largely caused by human activity, resulting in significant, measureable damage to the earth and its inhabitants. The Association believes that humans must take immediate steps to change activities that contribute to global climate change. The Association supports the continued development and implementation of environmentally sound practices that abate global climate change and its effects in partnership with the global community.

One of the essential principles of teaching climate change to students is the message that it has consequences for the earth and human lives. Many students want to take an active role in combating climate change and are interested in how they can do so in the classroom. Educators have the opportunity to embed elements of climate change into their lessons to ensure these students have the knowledge they need to address the issue in the capacity they see fit.

The resources below can help you guide students toward an understanding that climate change is no longer just of interest to scientists and that students themselves can take an active role by learning about it, and perhaps choosing a field in which they tackle climate change in the future.

Teaching Climate, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
This website provides resources, information and guidance on teaching about climate. It includes background information, strategies for engaging youth, teaching tools and professional development opportunities.

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

Global Climate Change: The Effects of Global Warming (Lesson 2), PBS Learning Media
Source: PBS Learning Media
For grades 9-12+ and Intended to follow 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.

Climate Change Live: A Distance Learning Adventure
Source: U.S. Forest Service and other partners.
This includes vetted resources such as websites, lesson plans, and activities broken out by grades K-12.

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

Climate Kids: NASA’s Eyes on the Earth, NASA
Source: NASA
Content, links to games, and a visually appealing discussion guide for teachers to present the evidence for climate change throughout the planet.

A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 
Source: Environmental Protection Agency
An interactive website providing an overview of climate change.

Climate Change in my Backyard, Chicago Botanic Garden
Source: NASA and the Chicago Botanic Garden 
This guide for grades 7-9 incorporates the NASA climate change curriculum to provide activities over four units.
The same guide for grades 10-12 is available here.

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