Climate science in the classroom

| 30th September 2019
Supporting children's learning about climate change and their action for climate justice is an essential aspect of meaningful education.


School children across the planet have been on strike to protest the mistreatment of the planet and raise awareness for the global climate crisis.

Many politicians, commentators and members of the public have proudly supported young people's efforts in tackling issues where governments and corporations fear to tread. But for some, such as UK Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, losing out on valuable learning time is too much of a loss to support the strike action.

The world faces a climate emergency. The efforts of the school strikers who have rallied behind Greta Thunberg have resulted in shifting attitudes, raised awareness and inspiring action by a number of major corporations and government bodies


But how do we reconcile this with the threat of lost learning time, where every day lost negatively affects attainment levels? And should children bear the brunt of eco-anxiety caused by the behaviour of older generations?

There are others who believe that allowing children to protest climate breakdown is irresponsible and that to inform children of the ways that climate change is already being felt around the world is unnecessary fear-mongering.

These arguments fail to realise that climate change is already having negative effects around the globe, directly affecting the lives of many children. Strikers are highlighting the overall damage being done to the planet and are raising awareness for those currently suffering on a warming planet.

Additionally, the school strike has truly become a worldwide phenomenon. To suggest that highlighting the reality of climate change is fear-mongering ignores those already living with its impacts. 

Students in Malawi joined the September strike to protest the damage being caused to their country which has resulted in famine and poverty. Children interviewed by iNews also stated that the effects of climate change had resulted in teachers having to search for food rather than come to school.

The effects of climate change may indeed fill some adults and children alike with fear, but for many these impacts are already a reality. 

Lost learning 

The strikers are also posing a challenge to how we measure learning: by assessment or by real life impact and far-reaching understanding. Research shows that every missed day leads to a reduced likelihood of children gaining five or more GCSEs above a grade 4 (equivalent to a C).

There are countless schools where children have taken to the streets with the support of their teachers - such as Putney High School in London, where head teacher Suzie Longstaff “applauds” the social conscience of her students.

But there are also others who, instead of leaving the school grounds, dedicated 20 September to a day of lessons based around climate change. This is an inventive way to tackle the issue of lost learning time while still involving children in the important social issues of the world around them.

Children shouldn’t need to miss school time to strike, but the progress they’ve already made shows how necessary their action is right now.

It is vital that teachers implement more climate awareness into their teaching. The most significant way by which British government officials like Kwarteng and Schools minister Nick Gibb can encourage children to return to school is to listen to their concerns and act on them meaningfully. 

Climate breakdown 

Coming up with imaginative ways to examine the effects of climate change can help with children’s attainment and expand their understanding of the world around them. 

Encouraging children to engage with climate science is not only an important social topic, but lends itself well to existing objectives in the curriculum.

Research into the effects of climate change lends itself to the objective of identifying scientific evidence and presenting findings, such as causal relationships. This ensures that children are carefully examining the evidence in front of them and coming to an educated conclusion.

In more specific objectives, children studying animal adaptations can learn about how animals adapted to their habitat are being affected by deforestation, extreme weather or changing temperatures. This is a useful and engaging angle which will highlight how important adaptation is to animal welfare and how significantly it can be affected by change.

Supporting learning

Children around the world are desperate for something to be done on climate change and taking action into their own hands to make something happen for the better.

This shouldn’t be their burden to bear and adults with the power to effect change should be working hard to resolve the issues children have identified.

Until then, teaching children about climate change and supporting their learning throughout this period of eco-anxiety ensures fear-mongering and loss of lesson time are kept to a minimum.

This Author 

Damon Culbert is a content writer for Wild Science. Wild Science offer animal workshops in schools and care homes and is passionate about protecting wildlife across the globe.


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