Needs of EE on Climate Change | eePRO @ NAAEE

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Needs of EE on Climate Change

So let me say that being an informal educator, I understand the need for optimism with younger grades. I won’t address the educational protocols here because I am just learning about them. It seems to me that world population is 55% urban at present and will be 68% urban by 2050. It seems a good time to connect children with nature.

If we taught the science of climate as basic chemistry, physics, and biologically coupled systems (instead of as something that was necessarily controversial and opinionated) then the truth of it and the science of it would be obvious from basic secondary chemistry/physics/biology.

The second topic has a premise (simplification) ;
The young scientists of 2030 are in grades 10-12. They will be in their 50s in 2050. That is to say they will see many changes and also mentor the younger ones in their own middle age.
I think educating this group about climate science is a wonderful opportunity for stewardship and a tragic mistake if avoided.

Now in Mo. I do not see much action on this topic and anecdotally I do not see everyone up to the challenge. Is the problem that there is little opportunity to do this, or is the problem in the multidisciplinary requirements to be able to do this as a teacher?

Anyway, I would like to see some thoughts and feedback from this community.

Geoffrey, thanks for your post!
I hear you -- being an informal educator who is now deeply involved in our town's open space system. I am confronted with the question of how to involve our youth all the time. I am choosing to work locally now, because I think it is the best way for me to try to make an impact.

Like in most towns, adults are making the decisions that our youth will have to live with. Just last night at our Open Space Board of Trustees meeting, we heard from the teenagers who have participated in our Junior Ranger program. They have become self-confident individuals who appreciate the value of working with a team, and they have grown to deeply care about our open space system. My question to them was: Are you ready to form a "working group" to delve into one of the challenges of our system (e.g. invasive species, dog management, etc) and give us your recommendations? They seemed to say yes -- and I think it's the responsibility of all the adults in the room now to craft a next level of involvement and the kinds of multidisciplinary learning experiences -- and give them some responsibility -- for them to continue to develop the skills and capabilities and understandings that will enable them to add their voices regarding how we solve problems and move into a more sustainable future.
I'm not sure that the adults are all willing to turn over some responsibility to youth, but I think it's essential for them to learn and for us to gain from their insights and different perspectives.
I'd love to hear from others who work in informal education re what you are doing and think needs to be done to advance youth's growth and involvement!

Some of you may be familiar with the Envirothon Program, a high school competition about the environment where students also learn about the impacts of a current environmental issue. I really like the way the Massachusetts Envirothon folks do the current issue. They encourage the students to investigate the issue in their town, engage with community officials and natural resource professionals and ultimately develop a service learning project. In 2015, their current issue was climate change. I attached the link to how it was presented to the students. I think adults who might be "on the fence" about including teens might have a change of heart if they are working more side by side. In some cases I have seen the Envirothon students really take charge and work with their communities.

Hi Geoffrey, thanks for your post! I completely agree with you that we don’t need to teach students what to think, we need to teach them how to think about climate change and other environmental issues so that when they have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve the issues of their time.
I work with an EE program that I think you’d really like called Project Learning Tree (PLT). The program is not only for formal educators, but for anyone, including parents, who want to connect children to nature and engage youth in outdoor learning. We have a network of formal and non-formal educators all over the US, including one in Montana that you can reach out to and I think would be a great resource to you. The PLT Montana State Coordinator is Cindy Peterson, her contact is on the PLT Montana website (link below). Hope this is helpful to you! Ana

Thanks all for your good comments and links! There was another message in what I was trying to convey.

I wonder why local (Mo.) science teachers do not seem to be engaged the earth science aspects (environmental physics and chemistry) of climate change to later (10-12) secondary students. While biology can lead to profound environmental change (stromatolites and oxygen in the atmosphere), rapid large changes in the geochemical and physical environments from physical causes also have great influence. Would it not make sense to invest educational resources in this opportunity to positively affect our sustainability?

As I tried to explain, this group (grades 10-12) will be maturing professionals and mentors of the earlier grades that will be the environmental scientists during a time when both environmental and cultural change will be important.

It could be that local school boards and school districts or even teachers view climate change as a political topic and are unwilling to go there. It could be that the actual mechanisms and basic science of climate change is interdisciplinary and difficult for most secondary teachers to teach.
I have looked at some climate change orgs (climate reality, …) and have come to the conclusion that being a member of eepro standards would conflict with being part of an advocacy organization. On the other side I have taken some MOOC classes on climate change (Johan Rockstrom’s Planetary Boundaries and climate Science Denial ).

As my observations are anecdotal, I am unsure of their generality beyond my immediate experience. Please tell me what you think.
As a solution I see 2 coupled solutions;
1. Help science teacher’s master the biogeochemical aspects and physical aspects of climate change science.
2. Have the ability to teach climate change as basic science thus disarming the political aspects of warming to denial of basic science.

Would this be an appropriate subject that might interest others as a conference poster session or item that others would be interested in?

Thanks for generating some good exchanges, and for persevering and asking your questions again!

I have 3 responses/reactions:
1. Each state and school district and school (sometimes depending on the principal) has a different perspective re climate change and the degree to which it should be taught & what courses it belongs in. You hit the nail on the head in suggesting that all those issues can be political. Only by talking to teachers in your neck of the woods will it be possible to figure out the lay of the land -- and I encourage you to do that.
2. NAAEE Conference Poster?: Save October 16–19, 2019 for our next conference in Lexington, KY -- the call for proposals will be out early in the new year -- and we usually have some eePro discussions re proposals that folks want to see/are interested in. So, we'll be better able to answer your conference questions soon.
3. I don't know anything about MO's earth and physical science standards -- or whether, as a state, MO has adopted the new national science standards. If there's someone in our eePro group who is involved in 9-12 science education/schools in your state, I'm hoping that s/he will chime in.
You sound like you may already know about the new national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). In many states, they guide both classroom expectations/curriculum and teacher professional development -- and also student evaluation. You can see them at and find out whether the concepts you are asking about/looking for are included.

You may be interested in this earth science opportunity after the holidays. If so, be sure to register for it now -- it looks good and it's bound to fill up:
The NGSS-ESS Working Group is pleased to announce a free webinar, A Teacher’s Perspective on the NGSS: All Standards for All Students, Earth Science Integration, and the Three Dimensions
on Thursday, January 10 at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. CT, 2 p.m. MT, 1 p.m. PT. The webinar will be presented by Jim Clark and Samantha Johnson, Next Gen Science Innovations.

The webinar is free, but registration is required. Please visit:
to register.

You will receive webinar access information a day or two before the webinar. We will also post a recording of the webinar on the NGSS-ESS webinar page: where we invite you to view archived videos of all of the previous webinars.

Webinar title:
A Teacher’s Perspective on the NGSS: All Standards for All Students, Earth Science Integration, and the Three Dimensions

After having taught for more than 30 years, I’ve seen many education initiatives come and go, but am happy to say that the Next Generation Science Standards are here to stay. This webinar will highlight not only my experiences teaching the standards in a high school classroom, but also designing and running teacher professional development around the NGSS. I will focus on what I think are some of the most important, and unique, features: the mandate that every student receive access to all the standards, as well as the idea that all sciences can be driven by earth science phenomena. We will discuss different aspects of classroom practice that support NGSS implementation, as well as systemic changes like whole-district implementation teams and course model design. Special emphasis will be placed on equity and equitable teaching practices to engage all learners.

Jim Clark and Samantha Johnson. Next Gen Science Innovations


Just so everyone knows, I am trying to figure out where I can fit in to environmental education and I was sharing some thoughts and assumptions. I was trying to take an adaptive management approach to the educational system from the bottom up, not be overly critical of any one profession or persons.

I think if it was an easy problem to solve it would not be a problem. Maybe I should think about opening up the belief/political space a bit. I don’t really like the idea of advocacy, but maybe to increase environmental literacy of climate change within the adult population and see how to do that while keeping within excellence standards is the best route for me. This is not what I expected, so I will look there next. I wanted to thank everybody and wish everyone happy holidays!

Hi Geoffrey and everyone on this thread, This is my first post on eePro. I'm Will Parish, NAAEE board member and co-chair of the California Environmental Literacy Initiative that my colleague, CEO of Ten Strands manages. Together our team is helping the CA K-12 system integrate environmental literacy into core K-12 subjects, including science. CA adopted NGSS in 2013, just after I completed a decade of teaching environmental science and civics in the a San Francisco public school. Advocacy is the crucial ally to environmental literacy in the classroom: advocacy for more teacher PD, more funds for field trips and science equipment for classrooms. Advocacy also includes speaking with members of the teachers unions and parent teacher groups about the advantages of teaching using the environment as context in science, history, english, art and math. Ten Strands recently had a nice success when Governor Brown signed the bill we sponsored, SB720, into law during the California Climate Action Summit.

Thank you everyone for the great resources and ideas! I teach 9th grade Biology and there is a very wide gap in what the students know about climate these days! I think one of our biggest hurdles as educators, traditional and non-traditional alike, is to bridge the gap between what we do in our classrooms and the real world applications our students can take with them into the world. I know we all want to believe that we as teachers explain why something is important and that should suffice, but the reality is that it's not enough. We really have to dig in and make it matter for these kids. We need to explain how oil production and prices will affect their lives in a meaningful way, or how greenhouse gas emissions and regulations not only affect the air they breathe but the price of the products they use on a daily basis. As someone else mentioned climate science is just science, and should be taught as such but we have this whole new political element to deal with.

So the question is, how do we as educators bridge that gap of relevance and make meaningful connections for our students between the content we are teaching and how they can use it in the future. The most common thing I hear from students when they aren't getting something or are struggling to be interested in a topic is "When am I ever going to use this after this class?" I think can another bigger issue is that students don't think they can make a difference in their world. Imparting skills and knowledge they can take with them for future education or professions is a tall order, but the missing piece is their acceptance that they can do something about what they care about in the world, and getting them to connect that desire to the content in our classes.

One thing that I did when I taught Environmental Science in Milwaukee we did a science fair project on the water quality of the Milawaukee River. They complained about the water being dirty, so I turned it around on them (juniors and seniors) and asked, what can you do about it? They said, test the water and see what's in it. So they did it. Then I asked, what next? So they contacted a representative of the WI DNR to learn more about water quality maintenance and how'd they could apply what they'd learned outside of my classroom. This is unfortunately not the case most of the time, but what let's discuss ways that we can bridge the gap between content and real life? What do you do in your classroom or at your center to reach your students/guests in order to connect climate concepts to real-world action?

I am an educator at a reptile sanctuary. We always discuss with our students how the natural world has limited resources and different conservation efforts toward reptile species. Everything we do is connected to the wild, and most interactions have negative affects. Climate change is a HOT issue, especially with some people not believe it is happening. That is why it is so important to bring this topic up without being controversial and opinionated. It is so easy for people to shut themselves off from the environment, but they would not have the lives they live without the environment. I agreed that we need to be teaching the students how to come up with solutions to the problem on their own. It is an educator's job to present them with the facts, and to help open their eyes to the natural world with its issues. People are going to make their own decisions, but presenting them with the information to have positive critical thinking skills, will help them to make better decisions. Kristie, above you mention students thinking "When am I ever going to use this after this class?" and how students feel they can't make a difference. It is so important to take baby steps. If you try to jump from level 1 to 100 you will struggle. You have to gradually introduce the students to small things they can do in their every day lives to make this difference. It does not happen overnight, and that is okay. The more people work on these issues together, the bigger the results.

Hi Geoffrey (and everyone on the thread), I know that your original post was from quite some time ago, but this thread just popped into my mailbox today. I am a Ph.D. student and this is very closely related to my proposed dissertation topic. I work with climate education in traditional k-12 school environments with a focus of the teachers' role in disseminating information to their students. I have previously held multiple informal education positions and will pull from both my research and personal experience surrounding this topic. In one of your post, you had asked: "why local (Mo.) science teachers do not seem to be engaged the earth science aspects." I can ensure you that this is not just an issue in MO but in many if not all states. The majority of science teachers have never themselves been taught about climate or earth science, and if they have been exposed to these topics, it is briefly and often in a basic level science methods course. If you look at only elementary teachers, they are even less like than their middle and high school counterparts.
Teachers often hold many misconceptions and incomplete conceptions about the Earths' climate system, pair this with an overwhelming number of unvetted climate curriculums and resources this creates a network of confusion for both the teacher and the student. At this point, unless mandated, some teachers may just opt-out of teaching climate topics at all. Many teachers may appear unengaged due to the complexity and lack of understanding of the subject. In regards to, "climate change as a political topic and are unwilling to go there." Yes, however, in my experience, this is more an issue of framing the topic. I have lived in multiple conservative states where climate change denial was quite high compared to the US as a whole. I was able to teacher climate without issue. I frame it as that climate science, not climate change. I have never taught the topic of climate change directly but rather teach the science behind climate, the skills needed to interpret the data, how to ask questions, make claims, and provide evidence. In my role as an educator, I don't give the students an answer rather just the skills to find one on their own. Now when a student proposes a claim on either side, I question and make them provided their evidence. In this way, you can guide them to the scientific fact. My research group and I are currently working on publishing a few articles in this area, and I would be happy to share once completed. These are just some of my thoughts and I hope they help.

Kimberly and others, Thank you so much for your kind replies.
I have evolved on this issue. When I posted this, I was new to the group. I had listened to a NSTA web learning on the “Dynamic Ocean” which was about problems with the Ocean including acidification. Most of the audience was secondary teachers, but it was apparent that they and the presenter did not understand the carbonate chemistry of acidification. I thought that they had enough interest on this topic that it would be a wonderful opportunity to use my niche background to develop a session addressing both topics.
At the same time, I took 5 classes through that I thought were phenomenal. The two best were Planetary Boundaries, SDGAcademyX - PB001 and Making Sense of Climate Denial, UQx - Denial101x. The SDGA Academy is a UN outlet for sustainability classes, what William Stapp would have liked. Planetary Boundaries is (I Think) what the best environmental science has to say about out sustainability and footprint from a very integrated perspective. You can get the fundamentals from his TED Talk at . This is what Rockstrom thinks science tells us about our sustainability and what policy must be obtained by that science. This is edgy for the UN sustainability ed effort, but I find it scientifically plausible. Climate Denial is a class that explores the foundations of climate denial so that us science sorts understand the sociology and psychology of the climate denial movement. It also presents a lot of climate science and how to advocate for science and climate.
After joining NAAEE I took an approved class from NOAA Earth Guardians on Teaching Climate Science. It was taught by a Geoscientist (forgot whom) and I thought it was awful. It violated many environmental educational standards which I will not go into here. I did a poster session on carbonate chemistry and ocean acidification at the NAAEE state affiliate conference a couple of months afterwards to give secondary teachers some ideas and knowledge resources to teach it and had 3 people stop by. We have a small conference and it is dominated by green schools and experiential education, so I do not think that this is necessarily a bad number. I originally posted this here to find out if other people had similar concerns and if this was a worthy NAAEE conference topic.
This year I am finishing up affiliate env. ed certification, advancing projects that I do as a citi. sci. volunteer. I registered and was accepted for the climate reality leader training in Atlanta. I declined that only because I had just started a couple of complicated projects locally and thought to put it off until next year. I am hedging here because I think I am happy with being green and env. ed as far as science goes, but not as far as advocacy can go without science. I have a really good background in physics, env. chemistry, fate and transport, and biogeochemistry (carbon cycle, and all cycles), and this message must be delivered for secondary students and adults for our sustainability and own sake. We have to start before the first to second graders grow up. I cannot think of any moral or ethical rationale to let this opportunity go. I also find the purely activist perspective view does not always accurately portray what we should do and the nature of the problem. I feel the problem is very serious and we best not react inappropriately We have to try to do it right the first time. So, I am thinking really hard about what to do next, since my efforts haven’t been successful and I think the answers I seek may not be in NAAEE. I have started a Facebook group called living earth (secret now) which I will open soon to address this perspective for both science and education and invite feedback here for those that wish to.

This is great insight, and agree!
"The young scientists of 2030 are in grades 10-12. They will be in their 50s in 2050. That is to say they will see many changes and also mentor the younger ones in their own middle age. I think educating this group about climate science is a wonderful opportunity for stewardship and a tragic mistake if avoided."

Thanks Ana! I will look at the particular class.

I would recommend everyone look at I am taking the class that Micheal Mann is teaching and the One Ocean One World class
Dr. Michael Mann- and
World's Oceans
The UN sponsors these classes through the SDGA Academy, though I do not understand all of the connections. I have also had the climate denial 101x and the planetary boundaries. Within the sustainability classes sponsored by the UN there is a view that varies between the all we have to do is make minor tweaks to world civilization in classes put together by seasoned diplomats to the hair on fire Michael Mann or Johan Rockstrom, all from the UN sustainability. . I have been won by the environmental science case as opposed to the longer-term diplomatic case.

So, the content, even from one source is determined by the culture and professional emphasis of the authors and their particular agency. I should not be surprised, given what Thomas Kuhn found about science itself (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). The question that troubles me is, Is education the art and science of communicating with students the content of lesson plans, or does it also include a judgement by the educator about the fidelity and efficacy of that content with respect to the urgency of the global situation and the needs of their students in the future world? I think local education requires global content about the localities of other nations and that we as educators need depth in subject matter to meet our challenge. I just wish that there was a clear path forward. I am stuck at these stages.