Just last night PBS NewsHour featured about a ten minute segment entitled, Teachers Endure Balancing Act Over Climate Change Curriculum. Overall it is an impressive vignette of what some educators face when they decide to teach about climate change in their classroom, but also what makes for good climate change education. Cheryl Manning, the featured teacher, points out the importance of starting with asking questions and identifying the misconceptions that may persist among students. She also discusses the importance of understanding the difference between a theory in everyday life and a scientific theory, based on evidence and much testing.
You can watch the video of the news segment here or
Watch Teachers Endure Balancing Act Over Climate Change Curriculum on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
and if you are free at 5PM Eastern (4PM for us in Minnesota) TODAY, May 3, take time to join a live chat with Cheryl, as well as Susan Buhr from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder and Pavane Gorrepati, a high school senior, who founded her school's environmental club, met with President Obama, written a children's book about the environment and researched climate change in China.This discussion is timely and ties in well with our upcoming forum on August 6, featuring Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education. More on her visit can be found: http://www.willstegerfoundation.org/component/k2/item/1493-join-us
In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration—with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption. (Migration and Climate Change)
The impact of climate change on human populations provides us as educators with the opportunity to include discussions of environmental justice and ethics in our classroom. What constitutes right and wrong? How do our actions affect people living on the other side of the world and what is our responsibility? Bring the discussion to a local level. What populations in our own community are disproportionately impacted by climate change's impacts? Why and what can or should we do?
(Here comes the flood Janos Bogardi & Koko Warner, Nature Reports Climate Change (2009) Published online: 11 December 2008)
Recent funding from the Minnesota Historical Society has enabled us to begin organizing Will's vast archives. This project will be helpful as we develop our new curriculum focused on Minnesota's Changing Climate that integrates items from Will's archives. Over the next few months as we dive into the archives I will be sharing some of discoveries and ideas of ways they an be integrated into the classroom.
This week we pulled out a weather scrapbook that Will had beginning in 1956 when he was 10 years old. The scrapbook is in a tattered old three ring containing lined paper. Each page contains weather data and articles cut out from the newspaper and attached with now yellowed scotch tape. They give a snapshot of extreme weather events and patterns between 1954 and 1956. Did you know there was snowstorm on May 3, 1954? Did you know they used to publish cool graphs that showed the temperature ranges over the month and what the high, lows, and precipitation had been? What a great way to introduce students to graphing after following temperatures over a month.
Finding ways to make scientific research accessible to the non scientist is important, if not essential, especially on topics related to environmental issues. I thought I'd take today to review one of my favorite educational tools that makes science accessible to middle schoolers, The Natural Inquirer. The Natural Inquirer is a middle school science education journal, published by the USDA Forest Service, that shares research published in scientific journals and conducted by Forest Service scientists. Each article include an introduction, method, findings, discussion and associated tables and graphs as in a real research article, but written at a middle school reading level. One of the things I like about the journal, is that each scientist is introduced in the beginning with a photo and why they enjoy science. The journal also include a glossary of terms, questions for reflection, and a lesson plan with suggestions of how to integrate the journal into the classroom. Students are even introduced to peer review because each edition is reviewed by a middle school class "editorial review board." Topics covered in the journals are all related to environmental science, and they have an entire library of climate change related research articles.
The Natural Inquirer is a great resource for middle school classrooms not only because of the opportunity to learn about complex environmental science topics at a middle school level, but because of the introduction to how scientific research is done and communicated. I think that it could easily be used beyond middle schoolers, at a high school, and even college level. Challenging upper level students to look at the primary source first, compare how it was "translated," and then asking them to do a translation of their own of another research article would be a great addition to an environmental science course.
An article today in Conservation Minnesota details some ways that Minnesota schools can make their school a more environmentally friendly place WHILE freeing up money for education. The article brought to mind two things that have surprised me as the parent of a kindergartner just starting public school this year.
Before our daughter started kindergarten we attended several meetings at the school, met with her teacher and received at least 3 mailings. The result of these various meetings and mailings was close to a quarter of a ream of paper, much of which contained replications. I realize that often it takes this many times for a parent to respond, but an alternate delivery method, or a prioritizing of what truly needs to be printed seems in order. Put it all up on a website, but have some copies available for those who don't have access to the internet or ask parents on their kindergarten registartion forms if they would prefer to use email or post mail.
2. Bus vs. Ride
We are lucky in our city to have free busing available to all public school children within the district that are more than a mile from school. Because we live outside of a mile our daughter will be taking the bus. There is a long list of reasons I could go into why we made this decision, but I will stick to the one most relevant this blog. Carbon emissions. A bus could be described as the largest carpool option that exists and regardless of if I choose to use it or not, it will be running. Therefore if I choose to drive to school I double the emissions. On top of this, our school district has been involved with a great program called Project Green Fleet. "Project Green Fleet is a collaborative effort among business, government agencies and non-profit organizations to improve air quality and protect health by reducing emissions from Minnesota’s school buses and other diesel vehicles. Project Green Fleet helps school districts, privately owned school bus fleets, heavy-duty fleets and other diesel fleet owners reduce emissions through retrofits, repowers, and idle-reduction technologies."
When we toured the school my daughter will be attending last year we were able to go on a school bus ride. During the ride the driver explained how his bus was retrofited under this program to all of the kids and parents on the bus. His explanation turned the district's involvement in Project Green Fleet into not only a good environmental decision, but a teachable moment for children and parents alike. By using the bus system available to my child, I show my support for our district thinking about the importance of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution and providing a teachable moment for all of us about the changes that can be made system wide.
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