Climate Change Education weblog
International blog for teachers dealing with Climate Change education. It’s part of the Teacherscop15.dk site. Denmark is hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen, Dec. 2009. Comments are very welcome; moderated before publishing.
by Anders Raun
By Anders Raun, Specialist Consultant at UNI-C - The Danish IT Centre for Education and Research - editor at the Teachers' COP15 website - http://teacherscop15.dk
After the many inspiring plenary sessions on the ICE2009 conference it was the educators' turn to do some work. I was part of a workshop on climate literacy and the members of our group included enthusiastic educators from South Africa, Australia, Germany and Denmark.
The task was to "Design an educational activity or strategy that addresses the misconceptions or confusion that students may have about climate. Take into consideration the challenges you have discussed".
We focused on the strategy perspective and the poster below are indeed only headlines. As pupils are not he only ones having misconceptions our main focus was on teacher training and local/regional buy-in/commitment from governments/administration and decicsion-makers.
The work in the workshop itself was of course interesting but it was just as inspiring to listen to experiences from other countries and to share experiences and opinions on material, processes and so on. We had good discussions on the quality of materials and reports produced by pupils and we discussed how to look for financing when local schools have interesting ideas.
In Denmark we have different types of funding available. Each year a portion of the revenue from the national lotteries is distributed to institutions based on individual applications from the school, institution or NGO. We also have the some research and development projects funds for the vocations schools. Periodically we create larger funding frameworks for elementary schools and high schools, and mostly it is possible to apply for individual funding from these funds - but, of course, there are also many applicants.
Back to climate literacy... Anisa Khan from Treasure Beach Environmental Education Centre in South Africa also showed us this nice peace of paper - an overview on focus points for making students (and teachers) climate literate - mapped to learning objectives in the national curriculum. Thanks for sharing Anisa! This is really a useful and applicable document for others to use as well.
by Claus Berg
Mark S. McCaffrey is an Associate Scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a co-author of the Essential Principles of Climate Literacy, co-Principle Investigator of the Climate Literacy Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) and was lead author of the NOAA Paleo Perspective on Abrupt Climate Change. He will be sharing his experience and research on climate science misconceptions and related topics at the Inspiring Climate Education 2009 Conference October 11-13, 2009 in Copenhagen.
As I prepare to visit the Copenhagen to attend the Inspiring Climate Education Conference, it occurs to me that the enormous confusion that many (if not most) Americans have about climate science and energy issues may not be as acute in Europe and particularly Denmark, where awareness – and action-- seem much more robust.
My perspective as a science educator who has spent much of the last decade in the United States struggling inside and outside of government agencies to convey the basics of climate, the water and carbon cycles through education and outreach programs, may seem odd to Europeans who haven’t had to deal with powerful political obstructions and vocal deniers of climate science.
That said, when it comes to mitigating and adapting to climate disruption, we’re all in the same proverbial boat . And we all have substantial “room for improvement” when it comes to fostering science savvy societies that are able to make informed, strategic decisions based on current science. Indeed, the outlook of this and future generations depends in many ways on our collective coming to grips with the climate crisis and related environmental disruptions.
While we continue to learn about the complexities of climate, scientists have had a good handle on the basics of the climate system and the greenhouse effect for the past 150 years after John Tyndall identified carbon dioxide and water vapor as gases that amplify the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. We’ve also known the potential for burning fossil fuels adding to that warming effect for over a century when Svante Arrhenius did his calculations on “the influences of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground.”
And for over fifty years science education has noted—not always clearly and sometimes as a mere footnote lost amongst the myriad other human impacts on the environment—that human activities could in time melt ice caps and cause sea levels to rise. Indeed, the changes anticipated by Arrhenius and others generations ago are now occurring, not in distant places but in our own communities and backyards, perhaps most crucially in our ocean, where carbonic acid is altering the chemical balance of the seas and the ocean expands and rises.
Yes, climate is complex and can certainly be confusing. It is highly interdisciplinary, cutting across numerous disciplines. Many if not most science educators teaching traditional biology, chemistry and physics may never have been trained in the basics of climate science. Earth sciences have also been traditionally rooted in geology, where rocks rule and deep time prevails. Climate fits between geological and meteorological processes, and all too often falls through the disciplinary cracks.
Most students learn the basics of weather at a young age. It’s a good place to start—observing local weather events and seasonal changes. But climate, while obviously related to weather is inherently different, requiring different theories, models and pedagogy. At least in the United States, few teachers have training—or the time or mandate—to dig deeply into climate processes. When climate change is taught, it is often ad hoc, emphasizing polar bears and carbon calculators over in-depth understanding of carbon, climate and complex interactions.
There are a few glimmers of progress in terms of increased awareness. People around the world are now taking human-caused climate change seriously, though many perceive it as something occurring elsewhere, sometime in the future. Not an immediate concern.
For others, especially the several billion people around the planet who are in daily survival mode and are already (or soon will be) the most vulnerable to changes in climate and rising ocean levels, climate change is abstract and not something they can relate to. Food, jobs and basic sustenance are the necessary priority in their lives?
However, for the young people in our communities and classrooms who are learning about the planet, acquiring skills and insights into the complex socio-environmental and economic realities of the world, knowing the basics of climate and energy is imperative. As we move (ideally quickly and strategically) to provide young people in particular and society in general with the basic information and tools to address the challenges we face, there are a number of key questions that should to be addressed:
- What are the most essential principles relating to climate science and energy solutions that people should understand?
- How crucial is an understanding of the water and carbon cycles to making informed climate decisions?
- What are common misconceptions that students (and in some cases teachers) often hold about the basics of climate and energy sciences, and what are the “best practices” to address them?
- How can climate science best be coupled with energy solutions?
- Given what we know about cognitive and emotional development of young people, isn’t overwhelming them with gloom and doom about melting ice caps and the demise of the polar bears counterproductive at best? (In fact, many young people have very apocalyptic views of the future, as do, for that matter, many adults. Minimizing “ecophobia” without glossing over the issues of population, consumption and environmental impacts requires tact and skill.)
- Where does climate and energy equity fit into the curriculum, and how can these discussions be informed by science?
- How do we best balance emerging opportunities with a sober analysis of the facts?
Human-induced global change is really a symptom of outdated ways of thinking, worldviews, and ideologies that are not only unsustainable but threaten the very survivability of the human species and environmental systems we depend on. Discovering ways to encourage whole systems, holistic thinking and behavior (“walking the talk”) is perhaps the ultimate conundrum of this generation as we move to address the phenomenal challenges of the 21st century.
The Essential Principles of Climate Science
"The Essential Principles of Climate Science" presents important information for individuals and communities to understand Earth's climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches for adapting and mitigating change. Principles in the guide can serve as discussion starters or launching points for scientific inquiry. The guide can also serve educators who teach climate science as part of their science curricula
The Essential Principles of Climate Literacy version 2
"The Essential Principles of Climate Literacy" version 2 was released in March, 2009 with additional input from climate experts and federal agencies participating in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. While the original focus was on providing a framework for K12 science teachers, the new version is geared to serve not only educators but all individuals and communities interested in learning the basics of climate science