October 2014 – Vol. 27 No. 2

Getting the Science Right: Teaching Climate Change in the Classroom

Posted: Monday, December 3rd, 2012

by Minda Berbeco

As the newest Programs and Policy Director here at the National Center for Science Education, I am constantly asked where educators can find good lesson plans and classroom activities to teach about climate change.

  • Is there something for 2nd graders?
  • Can it involve water resources?
  • How about a chemistry focus?
  • Will it fit into already established statewide science standards?
  • Can it involve students in the search for practical solutions?

These questions are especially pressing because even though climate change can fit well into almost any science course, whether biology, chemistry, or earth sciences, textbooks often skip over the topic, concerned that it is “controversial” or assuming that it will be covered elsewhere. I can’t answer all such questions here, but there are three sources of lesson plans and classroom activities on climate change that I recommend—not only because they’re useful but also because of the way in which they model good scientific and pedagogical practice.

Bringing climate change education into the classroom

An Internet search for climate change lesson plans comes up with over 2 million results. For a teacher, the options are mind-boggling. How could you even find the time to go through all of those resources? How do you know whether they are based in sound science?

The Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network is an ideal place for teachers to start when looking for lesson plans that will fit science standards. CLEAN is an online repository for lesson plans and other educational materials on climate and energy topics. All of the materials go through a multi-step scientific review from researchers with topic-specific expertise, as well as a teacher review to ensure good pedagogical practices. The searchable database allows educators to filter the material by age group, literacy principles, topics and more. It is a great resource for those looking for simple lesson plans to implement in an already full classroom.

Bring students together to create change

Teachers don’t have to become instant experts on climate change to engage students in the science. Many have started bringing in outside organizations to engage students in climate and energy literacy.

One such program is provided by the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), which works nationally to educate high school students on climate change in a positive and solution-focused manner. ACE starts engaging students though a school-wide assembly, and then builds an action-focused community of students. In the past, students have focused on decreasing their energy usage, saving schools money and reducing their carbon footprint substantially. This year, students are attempting to reduce the amount of waste being generated by the school. Engaging students in action plans, while educating them about the science and consequences of climate change, ensures that students do not become disillusioned when learning about this topic. Solutions are the focus, and this gets students engaged.

Students as agents of community change

The consequences of climate change can seem dire to students, resulting in disillusionment and disregard for the science. Somehow, it can be easier to ignore or dispute the science if students find the implications disturbing.

One way to address this challenge is to empower students to engage in solutions outside of school. The ECO2School in Sonoma County has started working with local schools to empower students to change their carbon footprints. Students develop their own science-based solutions to address climate change in their community, while being trained in organizing and leadership skills. Groups form a team with a math and science teacher as facilitators to encourage a strong basis in the STEM fields. Through encouraging biking, carpooling, and even walking, they generate their own school-wide initiative to evaluate and then reduce the carbon footprint of their community’s commute.

Students will need to have a good understanding of the science of climate change in order to make educated and thoughtful policy decisions about the consequences of climate change in the future. Unfortunately, many teachers avoid the subject, because they feel poorly prepared to address the many questions that can arise or are concerned about bringing controversy into their classroom. In addition, the resources are not yet in place at the state level to encourage them to present the science accurately and effectively. With lessons and programs such as the ones described here, though, it is becoming easier for teachers to integrate climate change into their science teaching.

Please note CSTA’s disclaimer regarding links to outside source: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Written by Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco

Minda Berbeco is the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education and is a member of CSTA.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

Last Days to Register for Amazing Pre-Conference Field Trips

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

October 31, 2014 is the last day to register for one of two amazing pre-conference field courses being offered by CSTA. The field courses will take place on Wednesday, December 3, the day before the NSTA Long Beach Area Conference.

2014 Long Beach Area Conference — CSTA Pre-Conference Field Courses

Marine Science Adventures on Catalina Island

© Anne Maben – Photo courtesy of CSTA member Anne Maben.

Located on Catalina Island just 20 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Big Fisherman’s Cove is the site of the famed USC Wrigley Marine Science Center, an international research and teaching facility. After a general tour of the facilities and touch tanks, teachers will participate in an ecology and island history walk and hear the latest research on sharks from world-renowned expert, Dr. Chris Lowe. Teachers will also tour and learn about the hyperbaric chamber that saves divers’ lives and explore tiny critters in the plankton lab. Participants may jump into a wetsuit and enjoy a guided snorkeling tour in pristine kelp beds, under the guidance of USC dive instructors or venture on a guided kayak tour off the beautiful coast of Catalina. What a day! Please wear slacks, close-toed shoes, a jacket, sunscreen and bring a bathing suit and towel if you plan to snorkel or kayak – cameras, binoculars and hats are a big plus! If you are prone to seasickness, please bring medication.

Wednesday, December 3, 6:30am – 5:30 pm

CSTA Member/Nonmember Fees: $60/$75 Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Sessions for All Grade Bands and Disciplines at NSTA Conference on Science Education in Long Beach

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Here are some of the many exciting events you can expect at the NSTA Area Conference on Science Education in Long Beach this December 4–6:

Register today for the most savings! Our Earlybird Deadline ends October 24.  – Remember CSTA members: Select the “NSTA Affiliate Member Rate” when registering to save $90 on registration.

Register Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

NGSS Science & Engineering Showcase – Call for Proposals

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

CSTA Members: You are invited to submit a proposal to showcase your classroom-tested NGSS, STEM, or Engineering unit, lesson, or project at the CSTA Night at the Aquarium. Submit a proposal for the Showcase today and share your experience with your colleagues. Showcase presenters receive a free ticket to the event! Submit a proposal today!

Proposals will be accepted September 24 – October 20. Notifications regarding the status of proposals will be distributed via email on October 27, 2014.

Proposal Guidelines and Information:

  • You must be a member of CSTA to submit a proposal.
  • We are looking for educators who can showcase an engineering/STEM/NGSS unit, lesson(s), or project that directly apply to classroom instruction. Preference will be given to those proposals that integrate the three dimensions of NGSS.
  • You will be provided with a 6’ table top.
  • You are expected to post your handouts on the event’s Edmodo site. This must be done a week prior to the event.
  • The evening will be divided into two, 90 minute “shifts.” Each shift will allow for 20 minutes of set-up, 60 minutes for “presentation,” and 10 minutes for clean-up. If accepted, your showcase will be assigned to one shift, allowing you the other 90 minutes to enjoy the evening’s events as a participant.
  • If possible, bring hands-on supplies/manipulatives (not handouts) or examples (videos, photos, student work, other) for attendees to see/use during your discussions.

Submit a proposal today

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Call for Nominations for the 2015-2017 CSTA Board of Directors

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementation planning for the Next Generations Science Standards and implementing its new strategic plan. If you are interesting in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration.

Nominations for the following positions on the CSTA Board of Directors are now being accepted:

Directors (with the exception of the president-elect) will serve a two-year term beginning July 1, 2015, and ending June 30, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

NGSS PD Coming to Fairfield and Walnut

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

CSTA_CASCD

CSTA and CASCD have teamed up to bring you and your curriculum developers a one-day professional learning opportunity. Both CSTA and CASCD members may register at member rates. Event dates and location are:

Introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning
This full-day workshop will highlight the many shifts required of both teachers and learners under the Next Generation Science Standards. In the morning session, participants will engage in an overview of the NGSS and its Three Dimensions. During the afternoon sessions, participants will be invited to experience either a K-5 or 6-12 session. Each of these sessions will further explore the NGSS with an emphasis on the impact it will have within K-5 and 6-12 classrooms. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.