Climate strikers push for stronger environmental ed

Several organizations now offer climate change lessons for K-12 schools
By: | October 2, 2019
As young people mount climate strikes around the country, many students, parents and educators want more comprehensive coverage of climate change in schools, an NPR survey found.As young people mount climate strikes around the country, many students, parents and educators want more comprehensive coverage of climate change in schools, an NPR survey found.

As young people protest to force the world’s governments to take more aggressive action on climate change, American students are also urging their teachers to offer comprehensive instruction on environmental challenges.

Students at a recent protest in Spokane, Washington, told a reporter that their curriculum does not sufficiently cover climate change, according to a story in The Spokesman-Review.

During the climate strikes led by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in September, New York City schools allowed its 1.1 million students to miss school to participateThe New York Times reported. And these days, Stanford UniversityNPR, the Paleontological Research Institution, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and other organizations offer guidance to educators on teaching climate change to students of all ages.

Yale University’s Climate Connections initiative lists nine books for educators who want to teach climate change in their classrooms.


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An NPR survey found that while a large majority of parents and teachers think climate change should be taught, many schools don’t cover the subject adequately.

Some states don’t require students be taught about climate change. Yet, in one of those states, Pennsylvania, many teachers are moving forward with environmental lessons, such as gauging the water content in model frogs, PublicSource reports.

Jamie Esler, a high school environmental science teacher in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told District Administration last year that he starts climate instruction with the basics of chemistry, physics, biology and the atmosphere. He then takes his Lake City High School classes outdoors for hands-on learning such as taking core samples from trees, measuring declining snowpack and calculating carbon dioxide levels.

“Just like physicians and auto mechanics can’t diagnose problems before they have a solid understanding of how a healthy body or car should work, we can’t understand the climate changes that are occurring until we know how the atmosphere operates,” Esler said.


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The Next Generation Science Standards call for middle school students to study the causes of warmer global temperatures and for high school students to analyze geoscience data, such as core samples, fossils and climate models, so they can make conclusions about the current rate of regional and global change.

In September, students led by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg protested around the world to urge governments to take more aggressive action on climate change.

In September, students led by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (not pictured) protested around the world to urge governments to take more aggressive action on climate change.

Cheryl Manning, an AP environmental science teacher in Colorado, told DA that she tries to avoid the political controversies of climate change by focusing on science, such as satellite data, ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions.

“I ensure students have the opportunity to work with data,” she said. “That’s what real scientists do—they don’t talk about the what ifs.”


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