Sep 28, 2017
Eight tips that will help you talk to your students about climate change.
Climate change is a popular issue and a timely one given the recent weather events. These intense weather patterns have spurred increased interest -- and uneasiness -- about where our planet’s climate is heading. It’s likely that your students may be discussing the subject amongst family and peers, but it’s important that they also learn from teachers and other educators to ensure they have the facts. As a tutor, you work with your students on a regular basis and it’s likely that you may have a handful that express curiosity about the subject at some point throughout your engagement. Here are eight things to consider when talking to your students about climate change.
Brush up on your climate knowledge. The last thing you want is to give your students incorrect information. Do some of your own research to make sure you understand basic weather terms and patterns, and understand the difference between weather and climate. Some great resources for basic information include NOAA’s Climate.gov page and the EPA’s climate site.
Try to remain unbiased. Climate change is an issue that most agree is happening, but the extent to which it’s occurring is often debated. Sticking to the facts and remaining unbiased is important. Look at numbers instead of providing an overview of your personal stance on the matter. Don’t interject your own personal opinions and make sure anything you teach has multiple credible and unbiased sources supporting your lessons.
Turn the conversation into a discussion. When addressing climate change with your students, give them the facts and let them draw their own conclusions. Encourage discussion and push them to try and find the answers to their own questions. Ask them why climate change matters to them and to the larger community. Have them think about what kind of visible effects it may cause in certain scenarios so they’re encouraged to think about hypotheticals.
Start on a smaller scale. The idea of “the environment” doesn’t always connect to students’ lives on an immediate level. When talking big picture, it can sometimes seem as if it’s a distant entity and thus, may seem as if it isn’t as relatable or important. To help students understand that the environment includes their immediate surroundings, start your lessons with smaller, more accessible examples, such as the plants in their backyard or a nearby park. Also, be sure to begin working with students on more basic issues rather than jumping straight into complex matters such as greenhouse gases. Providing tangible examples will help them understand the complicated elements of climate change down the line.
Incorporate visual aids in sessions. Graphs, charts, and pictures can be immensely helpful when teaching climate change to students. Psychology professor Haig Kouyoumdjian explains that “the effective use of visuals can decrease learning time, improve comprehension, enhance retrieval, and increase retention” in students. With a topic such as climate change that can often be confusing, presenting visual aids in your sessions can help students better grasp the material.
Include calculations into your lessons. Teaching climate change is a great opportunity to utilize math and equations. Provide a graph of data over a long period of time and analyze the graph together, looking at numbers instead of providing an overview of your personal stance on the matter. Have them make predictions using equations. For example, if you’re teaching a student about greenhouse gases, incorporate molecular math.
Utilize available resources as support. There are many organizations who have created resources for teaching climate change to kids. Visit some of these sites with your students during sessions. Credible organizations that provide interactive and fun activities to aid in your sessions include NASA’s Climate Kids, NOAA, Climate Change Live, and the EPA.
Encourage students to propose solutions. It motivates students to find solutions. When you’re talking about climate change, don’t simply focus on the current issues. Give them enough information to allow them to propose solutions. When working with students, the goal is to empower them, not to leave them absolutely terrified.
Climate change can be a tricky subject to teach. New research is constantly being presented and predictions often change. At the same time, the subject is at the forefront of today’s conversation. It’s an extremely important issue that should not be ignored and, to make sure students are informed properly, it’s essential to learn about climate change from educators who present facts and data. Tutors have the opportunity to teach students about this concept in an effective and beneficial way. Remember, the children of today are our country’s future and equipping them with the tools to model solutions early in life can lead to beneficial outcomes for the entire nation.
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