Supporting Climate Change Mitigation Through K-12 Student Education

Investigating evaporation from the soil

Investing in K-12 climate change education can provide valuable returns in the form of both long-term and short-term mitigation. In addition to the influence that education can have on students’ actions as future stakeholders, research shows that children can be effective agents of change within their families with regard to environmental behaviors (Evans et al., 1996; Anderson, 2016). With this in mind, the Southwest Climate Hub partnered with the nonprofit Asombro Institute for Science Education to create engaging and scientifically rigorous secondary education units on climate change and the water cycle, agricultural systems, and the carbon cycle. Three units are available for educators:



Unit 1: Climate Change and the Water Cycle

This unit consists of nine 6-12th grade activities focused on climate change effects on the water cycle and water resources in the southwest. Lessons include experiments, board games, and kinesthetic games, which can be conducted together or individually.

Unit 2: The Effects of Climate Change on Agricultural Systems

This unit educates students on the effects of climate change on crop productivity and food security. Lessons include a game of strategy, a gallery walk, two experiments, and a kinesthetic game to explore how climate change is affecting food production. Educators can choose to conduct the five activities in sequence or use them individually.

Unit 3: Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle

The Carbon Cycle unit introduces 9-12th grade students to climate change, the carbon cycle, and the effects of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth’s systems. The three activities in the unit include a model and experiment, a beanbag tossing game, a board game, and an investigation of mitigation strategies.

A fourth unit on climate change and wildfire is in development using the same rigorous process used for previous units. This includes iterative rounds of pilot testing with students as well as reviews by both scientists and educators. All of the engaging activities in these units are appropriate for both formal and informal educators and can be conducted with non-specialized materials that many educators already have or are readily available at most household goods stores. The activities are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards. Four activities that are especially suitable for students participating in remote learning due to COVID-19 are available online: https://asombro.org/cycle/. The full units are also freely available online: https://swclimatehub.info/education.

References

Evans , S. M., Gill, M. E., & Marchant, J. (1996). Schoolchildren as educators: the indirect influence of environmental education in schools on parents' attitudes towards the environment. Journal of Biological Education 30 (4): 243-248.

Andersen, P. J. (2016). Children as intergenerational environmental change agents: Using a negotiated protocol to foster environmentally responsible behaviour in the family home. [Doctor of Education thesis, University of Wollongong]. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4945