Climate change is heavy enough for adults to contemplate, but as a topic for children, it can be downright scary. Not to mention that the science is pretty complicated. How do we teach children what they need to know without terrifying them -- and in a way they can understand?
Sometimes, kids are the best ambassadors. Marina Weber is a 13-year-old girl who has written a book for kids about the science of climate change. It's called "The Global Warming Express," and she hopes to publish it later this year. She and her mother, Genie Stevens, started an after school program in Santa Fe, New Mexico by the same name. Two hundred children in the area now participate.
In August, The Global Warming Express is coming to Pleasant Bay in Orleans, Massachusetts as a two-week summer day program for children ages 8 to 12. Mon Cochran of the Friends of Pleasant Bay is helping to create the climate change science program. Cochran retired in 2008 after 35 years as a professor at Cornell University in child development.
Janine Chuckran, a teacher with CityLab at Bridgewater State University, says it can be hard for teachers to fit climate change into an already-packed science curriculum. They tend to have to "tuck it in" to other units because there are very few schools that have dedicated a time to talk about climate change. In her classroom, Chuckran inserted lessons on climate change "here and there where I could see a correlation," she told WCAI.
Minda Berbeco, a Ph.d. biologist and expert in the carbon cycle at the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, says it's important for teachers to get the professional development they need to teach climate change in the classroom.
Berbeco says it's also important for teachers to know that they have the support from the community. "So they know they can teach climate change in a really forthright manner without concern about getting pushback or getting in trouble with an administrator or parent," she said.
Berbeco says the trick to helping children not feel overwhelmed by the reality of climate change is to empower them to do something about it. Many schools have been able to involve students in an energy audit of their building. That not only has great educational value, but helps the school do something positive for the environment.