Helping Students See the Reality of Climate Change

A few years ago, sadly enough, I still considered myself one of the non-believers when it came to Climate Change.  “It’s just the natural, cyclical process of Earth heating and cooling,” is what I preached to my colleagues and students.  I didn’t see the value in the evidence and nor did I trust the studies and research I did view.  I denied the reality of what was actually happening.  Recently, I have done much investigating and talked with many colleagues on this issue and now see the harsh truth.  Earth is getting hotter at an unbelievably fast pace due to human activity in the form of burning and using fossil fuels.  Because of this, weather patterns are shifting and the arctic ice is melting, causing ocean levels to rise.  The oceans are also becoming more acidic, changing the environment and organisms that live in it.  Climate Change is a serious and real issue and needs to be addressed now.  Yes, the world’s governments are trying to do something about it, but one always wonders how much of what we are told as citizens is actually truth versus politics.  As Bill Gates wrote in a recent letter posted online, the youth of the world will need to help fix this issue.  They are the ones who will be bearing the weight of this problem and so they are the ones who must work to help address it.

As a teacher, I make it my goal to inspire my students.  Since we’ve been studying Climate Change in my STEM class, I’ve been educating the students on the issue at hand through teacher-directed instruction and a partner project.  I’ve also reminded them how important of a topic this is and how this will soon become their problem as they are the future of our world.  At first they didn’t seem to understand this.  I asked one student, “As a citizen of your country, why is knowing about Climate Change and things like the Paris Agreement important?”  He had to really process the question before he was able to truly answer it.  At first he said, “I don’t know.”  After dwelling on it for a few moments as I reiterated the important parts of the issue, he seemed to understand and had a much more complex answer.

The Climate Change Project has the students find a problem being loosely addressed by the Paris Agreement and create a realistic and cost effective solution to the problem.  They have a budget of $1,000 to use when devising their solution.  They aren’t necessarily going to build or complete their solution, but they are going to think it through, explain their idea and the costs involved, and present their idea to a panel of judges.  They have begun to really enjoy this project so far.  They seem very engaged with it.  Perhaps it helped that I tried to inspire self-motivation a bit by suggesting that any extremely realistic and cost-effective idea could be proposed to President Obama and perhaps be implemented in the future.  They seem very focused on this aspect of the project as they are challenging themselves to generate unique and viable solutions to the problem of Climate Change.

I’m hoping that through more discussions like the ones we’ve already had in class and through the completion of the Climate Change Project the boys are currently working on, they will see how important an issue Climate Change is and want to bring about positive changes in the world.  As a great person once said, “If not you then who and if not now then when?”  Perhaps one of the students in my class will generate the next big idea to address the issue of Climate Change.  Because of the plasticity of the developing adolescent brain, they often offer very different perspectives from adults because they are utilizing different portions of their brain to solve problems.  It is highly possible that a student and not a fancy scientist will develop the next great solution to Climate Change.  Could it be one of your students?  Let’s inspire our students to take a stand and see the reality of Climate Change so that they can foster positive change to generate solutions instead of more problems.