Climate Change Education eePRO Meeting Recap
Last month, some of our Climate Change Education eePRO Group members had the opportunity to meet up in person at the NAAEE Conference in Tucson. We started with a brief presentation of data (you can view the slides here) from the Yale Program on Climate Communication. Their report on Climate Change in the American Mind from April 2022 illustrates a few key points that are helpful to keep in mind when educating about climate change. For instance, the majority of Americans (72%) think global warming IS happening, which means that convincing climate deniers is no longer a priority. There are, of course, other areas for growth:
- While more than half of Americans (56%) understand that global warming is mostly human-caused, one in three (33%) think it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment.
- Fewer than half of Americans perceive social norms for taking action on global warming, meaning that more social pressure could inspire more behavior change.
According to the report on Politics & Global Warming from April 2022, registered voters generally ranked teachers in the top 10 or higher when asked about who they trust the most as sources of information about global warming. Family and friends were also ranked highly across different voter groups.
It is clear that talking about climate change in the classroom and social settings is an important way to raise awareness and inspire necessary action.
After reviewing this data, those present at the meetup dove into a discussion around the prompts outlined below.
What is a struggle you face when teaching or talking about climate change?
Group members had a lot to share about emotion regarding this prompt. They expressed concerns about how people could react to conversations around climate change or the potential backlash that educators could face from parents when teaching about climate change. A Tucson educator is beginning to notice changes between middle and high school students, as their excitement shifts to anxiety when parents assert control. Looking internally, we also shared self-awareness around our own climate anxiety and grief.
What is a success you have had talking about climate education when teaching?
Storytelling and other imaginative strategies were shared as powerful tools that can be useful in engaging students. Another educator shared that they had a successful lesson using a fishbowl activity to facilitate student discussion.
What is a tip or tool you have used for creating climate change awareness?
There were a wealth of ideas shared amongst the group as members responded to these questions. Here is a partial list with links to explore:
Join the Climate Change Education eePRO Group to discuss ideas and share resources.
- Addressing Misinformation: Teaching students (of all ages) how to interpret misinformation is vital! Some tools for this are the Cranky Uncle game, which has an app and a teacher’s guide, and the STINK Test, which provides a helpful framework that can train students to recognize the validity of a source. John Cook, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub has authored books and articles on the topic of climate change misinformation that are also worth exploring.
- Imagining the future: Engaging people in conversations from a “futures-education” perspective was brought up as an effective strategy. For example, conversations with grandparents can be projected forward, “What world do you wish for your grandchildren?” The podcast The Long Time Academy was shared as a tool.
- How to teach without using the word “climate” vs. building climate literacy: For those feeling tentative about climate change education backlash, it was suggested that concepts could still be introduced more subtly. For example, making observations of changing seasons for berries, tracking plant phenology, or using photo books to show changes over time and overlaying it with a Show Your Stripes graphic. Others in the group cautioned against this, saying it’s a disservice to not name climate change and that it might contribute to the silence of the issue. Tools to build climate literacy that were shared include this guide to Project WET, Project WILD, and Project Learning Tree activities that can help educators teach about the climate holistically.
- Having Deliberative Discussions: Practicing skills to have civil discussions with people holding disparate opinions and varied perspectives is very valuable for all ages. One group member brought up Stanford’s Deliberative Democracy Lab as an inspiration for such discussions.
As our group session wrapped up, we shared hopes and dreams for implementing cross-curricular, whole-school approaches to climate literacy and getting youth involved in more legislative efforts. It was acknowledged that while it does take time to build and strengthen climate literacy, the most important thing is to begin.
To learn more about a whole-school approach to climate literacy, please view the eeINSPIRE webinar, Mapping the Landscape of K–12 Climate Change Education Policy in the United States.