Many teachers try to insert climate education because many other countries omit it - Liberty

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Many teachers try to insert climate education because many other countries omit it


Bertha Vazquez teaches 7th-grade science in Miami.

In mid-October, just two weeks after Hurricane Ian hit the state, Bertha Vazquez asked her grade 7 class to search for information about climate change online. Specifically, she suspected their human cause and ordered them to find out who had paid it.

According to Vazquez, it was a sophisticated exercise for 12-year-olds who were taught to discern climate facts from the deluge of misinformation online. But she also saw it as an essential wrap-up to the end of two weeks dedicated to teaching Miami students about climate change, possible solutions, and barriers to progress.

"I'm really passionate about this issue," she said. 'We have to find a way to sneak in'

That's because, in Florida, where Vazquez has been teaching for more than 30 years and where her students are already seeing the dramatic effects of global warming, the state's middle school and elementary school standards include "climate change." This is because the word does not appear.

Miami during tropical storm 2020. Climate change is making hurricanes and storms wetter and more unstable.

Climate change is changing where students live and where they work as adults. Yet, despite being one of the most important issues for young people, it appears minimally in middle school science standards in many states around the country. Florida does not include this topic, and Texas does not. In its 27-page criteria, it adds three bullet points to climate change. More than 40 states have adopted standards with just one explicit reference to climate change.

"Middle school is starting to give these kids a moral compass, and they're starting to underpin that compass with logic," said Michael Padilla, professor emeritus at Clemson University and former president of the National Association of Science Teachers. By the way: "So middle school is a typical opportunity to focus more on climate change."

For those who receive formal education on climate change, it will most likely take place in middle school science classrooms. However, many middle school standards do not explicitly mention climate change, so finding ways to integrate it into classrooms is challenging, despite the double hurdles of limited time and inadequate support. , largely depends on teachers and individual school districts.

Vazquez makes it a state requirement to teach energy transfer to give him a chance to talk about how wind turbines work. Ecological conditions provide an opportunity to discuss the consequences of deforestation.

Bertha Vazquez, seventh-grade science teacher, Miami.

“What if the candlemakers had stopped the light bulb? We should be the leaders in solar and wind. I tell my students, ‘Don’t let the candlemakers stop the light bulb.’”

Bertha Vazquez, seventh-grade science teacher, Miami.

However, her engagement with the subject is not representative of how climate change is taught across the country. A survey by the National Center for Science Education found that about half of middle school science teachers said the subject was Either you don't deal with it, or you spend less than 2 hours a year on it.

The center's deputy director, Glenn Branch, said there wasn't enough time to teach the basics. At a minimum, we should learn the basics of climate science, including the role humans play, climate change impacts, and solutions.

People want to be taught about climate change. Nearly 80% of American parents believe climate change should be taught in schools, and students agree.

“Kids demand more and want more,” says Sarah Ruggiero, a science teacher in the Eugene School District in Oregon.

Education experts also say tackling climate change in the classroom is essential. Children are already learning about it from television and seeing it in the changing weather around them.

"Students everywhere know it's a problem," said St. Louis, who has authored 30 textbooks and helped create Next Generation Science Standards, a set of recommendations for science instruction. says Michael Wysession, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Washington. "The challenge is to keep them from getting depressed about it."

Ana Driggs, a sixth-grade teacher in Miami.

“One of the things I have students do is find people or corporations or inventions that are making a difference, so they don’t feel defeated. There are so many things out there that people are doing, whether it’s changing your light bulbs at home or you’re getting corporations to change how they do business."

Ana Driggs, a sixth-grade teacher in Miami.

Middle school science classes can expect to cover everything from photosynthesis to the electromagnetic spectrum in 180 days.

General topics are determined by educational standards. This is the most important mechanism by which states can influence what children learn and what teachers spend their time on.

Ten years ago, 26 states and several groups representing teachers and scientists announced next-generation science standards. Since then, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted this or similar standards.

But at the middle school level, even next-gen standards include only one of about 60 that explicitly mention climate change. An analysis by researchers at the University of Maryland found that 17 other criteria are related to climate change, but it is up to states, school districts, and teachers to establish those links in the classroom. I'm here.

Still, some of the most populous states continue to develop their own standards, and a review of these standards found climate change to be less noticeable. In some cases, the standards are updated. Branch said it's because they don't. States typically review them about every ten years, but Florida's current standards were adopted in 2008.

In other cases, however, the placement of climate change in the criteria is still under debate. Last year, the Texas Board of Education voted on new science standards. A board member who is also an attorney at oil giant Shell has successfully reduced the requirement for eighth graders to learn how to "explain efforts to mitigate climate change."

Such seemingly minor changes in the language are significant. Katie Worth, author of "Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America," says it may not make much of a difference for teachers already invested in teaching about climate change. “But it does give people who tend to lean towards climate skepticism a stepping stone.”

In 2020, the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network released a report scoring states on how their standards are addressing climate change. Half of the states received a B+, and 10 states received a D or lower, including Florida and Texas.

Students working on class assignments in Jerry Walther's class.

The curriculum does not exist until you enter the classroom. Also, many of the middle school next-gen science standards have something to do with climate change, but they don't explicitly mention it, which could be a big opportunity for teachers.

However, researchers found that many teachers received little climate education.

“The most important intervention we have to move forward is professional support for teachers,” said Frank Niepold, senior climate education program manager at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But he warns that this may be the hardest piece of the puzzle.

Some states like Washington, California, and Maine are turning to teacher training programs.

Science educators across the country have hailed ClimeTime as one of the best. This program receives millions of dollars annually in state funding. Since 2018, we have trained 14,000 teachers or more than one-fifth of teachers in Washington State.

“I tell them, ‘This is your responsibility to your community. You are supposed to leave the land, if not the same, then better than it was for your grandchildren. They buy into it and they love it.’”

Jerry Walther, a teacher at Taholah School on the Quinault Indian Nation.

Jerry Walther, a natural resources teacher in Tahora, Quinault Indian Nation, teaches how to get students outside regularly when training other teachers on how to teach climate change. "Each community has its own climate and culture," he said. "And that culture is interesting for students."

When his students look at oceans and rivers, the class inevitably starts talking about climate change, rising water temperatures, and the toxic algal blooms they've witnessed. “We haven't caught sockeye salmon for three years. How does that affect the way we live? How can we try to change that?”

According to teachers, one of the main challenges is the lack of good teaching aids.

Brianna Escobar, a 6th-grade science teacher in Garland, Texas, uses a textbook published in 2015 that is based on standards that are over a decade old.

Brianna Escobar is a sixth-grade science teacher in Garland, Texas.

“There are kids, I’m sure, whose families are in oil. So I try to frame things as a question. For instance, I ask: After comparing the types of energy resources we use in Texas, which do you think are better for the environment or people? … And they normally come to these ideas by themselves.”

Brianna Escobar is a sixth-grade science teacher in Garland, Texas.

Therefore, it is natural for teachers to turn to online teaching materials. However, the information they find may be outdated, inaccurate, or simply inappropriate for children. Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, an organization that provides free climate education materials found that of the 30,000 free online materials it reviewed, only 700 were accurate and suitable for school use.

Beyond the classroom, thinking about climate change requires more than just understanding climate science and the greenhouse effect. It's about transforming our energy systems and preparing for the waves of climate change. It is also about solutions, developing policies to adapt to extreme weather, and decarbonizing much of the economy.

This is why climate education is now expanding into areas such as the arts, humanities, and social studies. Starting this year, New Jersey is incorporating some aspects of climate change impacts and solutions into its standards for all grade levels and all subject areas. A national organization representing English and social studies teachers is calling for more climate change engagement in their classrooms.

These developments are encouraging and necessary progress said, Vazquez. Teaching about climate change ultimately becomes core to what the school is about. It means helping children understand the world around them and preparing them for the future.

"This is the topic of the century, not just for potential disasters ahead," she said. "But this is the future of the economy."