© PHOTO BY SHOCKSTUDIOX
Understanding climate change is about more than just understanding global warming. Teaching about the climate crisis allows young people to discuss social justice, world issues, and explore personal beliefs and values through critical thinking. Climate education has no boundary for the subjects it may relate to; the responsibility goes beyond science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educators; parents and guardians are equally responsible for reliable access to climate education.
The impacts of climate change are complex and different in every region. In some areas, higher temperatures will lead to more droughts and forest fires in the summer months. While in other areas, rising temperatures will increase the amount of water that evaporates, which could lead to more frequent and intense storms causing flooding and more intense snow and ice storms in the winter. Climate change could continue to melt arctic ice and glaciers, warming oceans, and rising sea levels, which will impact all people, plants, and animals on Earth.
Without immediate, significant action, the earth is expected to warm 1.5° to 2°C, according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For reference, fever occurs in the human body between 37.5°C and 38°C, which is only 1.5° to 2°C higher than our average core temperature of 36°C. Warming of these temperatures will see an increase in heatwaves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons.
Engaging youth in climate education through everyday topics
The United Nations identifies education as a critical agent in addressing the issue of climate change. Education can encourage a change in behaviour and attitudes and help individuals make better-informed decisions. Climate education in the classroom, particularly in the early years of development, empowers and motivates youth to take action by eliminating the fear of the unknown, which is often a deterrent of action. The United Nations created the Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development programme designed to “help people understand the impact of global warming today and increase “climate literacy” among young people.”
Learning about climate science and how to preserve the earth for many generations to come can be an overwhelming topic for students to take on, but it can also be a fun and interactive experience. By focusing on a topic that students care about personally and have some autonomy over, like their clothing, Let’s Talk Science offers youth an engaging and empowering entry point to learn about this global problem.
Did you know the fashion industry is responsible for approximately 10 percent of annual global carbon emissions? And by 2030, fashion-related emissions are expected to grow by more than 50 percent. The clothing industry impacts everything from our water and soil to a variety of ecosystems.
Let’s Talk Science recently launched a national climate science initiative called Clothing4Climate designed to help youth develop a fundamental understanding of climate science, encourage them to explore the environmental impacts of clothing, and take action through meaningful and sustainable clothing choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Through Clothing4Climate, students learn how to make educated, sustainable decisions—learning how small actions at scale can make a difference. By participating in this project, youth across Canada connect to drive systemic change.
Climate education for youth through uncommon applications
One of the most clever ways to engage students in climate education is to relate climate change to uncommon topics through critical thinking. Orbiting satellites even help by detecting changes in the earth’s atmosphere such as increased flooding, droughts, wildfires, melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. Arctic animals have evolved to thrive in harsh arctic ecosystems, but the environmental footprint created by climate change is affecting their survival. Arctic ice is, unfortunately, melting at historical levels due to global temperature increases, and many scientists believe by 2030, Arctic summers might be ice-free.
See related resource, How are Arctic Animals in Canada Affected by Climate Change?
Even math is applicable to climate education, Climate Math dives deep into the math behind how we know the earth is getting hotter and the tools used to detect temperature increases. Climate Kids is a virtual resource from the government of Canada for all ages encouraging youth across Canada to understand their actions and the impact they have on the environment. Engage youth in real-world applications like water usage around the house, plastics they use every day and how they can mitigate their environmental impact.
Climate education is of utmost importance to the future of our planet
Taking action now is the only way the world can reduce global warming and limit the effects of climate change. Most don’t know what impact their shopping choices have on the environment and the positive actions we can take as a society that begins with something as small as using a reusable water bottle.
Educators in math, history, geography, physical education, and of course, science can all apply climate education in their classrooms. Parents and guardians can use everyday activities like hiking, weather patterns, and getting dressed to instill lessons about climate change in youth at home. There are endless ways of integrating climate into curricula and at home in a manner that suits each child’s ability, fosters engagement and demonstrates how STEM education helps to create climate heroes.
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Let’s Talk Science is a national charitable organization committed to preparing youth for evolving career and citizenship demands in a rapidly changing world. Their goal is to positively impact every child in Canada, from early years through secondary school.