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Teaching about climate change

Climate change will impact all parts of the county and all residents, and we all need to do more, collectively, to address the climate crisis.

Understanding the science of climate change makes people more concerned about the issue, more likely to support action, and more confident in talking to others. Understanding effective and impactful solutions empowers people to get involved.

Youth looking at jar of materials while on outdoor field trip

Teaching about climate change can be complicated, but educators don’t need to generate curriculum themselves. Many educational resources already exist, including full curriculum programs, individual activities, downloadable games, and digital interactive tools.

The following curriculum and resources are available to both formal and informal educators looking to incorporate lessons and activities on climate change and climate action into their classrooms and programs. Most of the resources are available at no cost.

Curriculum and activities

Activity guides from Hennepin County

Cover of Hennepin County activity guides on energy conservation, air quality, and climate change

Hennepin County’s free activity guides (PDF) engage audiences of all ages in learning about climate change through short, stand-alone activities that can be stacked with each other for more in-depth lessons. Background information is also provided so that the activities can be facilitated without prior knowledge of the topic area.

Climate Generation curriculum

Climate Generation offers a suite of free curriculum resources for grades 3 to 12 in the form of curriculum guides and online modules. The resources are interdisciplinary and can be used in a variety of classes including earth science, life science, physical science, civics, economics, history, media, English Language Arts, environmental science, geography, and art.

Data Puzzles

Data Puzzles brings authentic and relevant scientific data into the classroom to give students the ultimate inquiry-based learning experience. Students should learn science the same way scientists do - through exploration, discovery, and sense-making grounded in observations of the natural world. Data Puzzles are all suitable for middle and high school classrooms. Most Data Puzzles require upwards of two 60-minute class periods to complete. Each Data Puzzle is connected to a specific scientist who has contributed their own or related real datasets for the activity.

Cover of Discover Your Changing World with NOAA activity book

Discover your Changing World with NOAA activity book

This activity book from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) introduces students to the Essential Principles of Climate Science, helps participants learn about Earth's climate system, the factors that drive and change it, the impacts of those changes, and what you can do to explore, understand, and protect our Earth. Download the full activity book or individual activities for free.

Green Ninja curriculum

Green Ninja creates engaging climate education resources for teachers to use for grades 6 to 8. Available educational materials include a variety of free educational videos, games, lesson plans, and remote learning guides that educators can use with their students to engage them in science through personal inquiry and action.

Groundwork Hudson Valley curriculum

Groundwork Hudson Valley offers a suite of free educator resources for grades from 6 to 12. Resources include a teacher guide, over 100 pages of curriculum, a web application containing useful tools to engage participants, and a recorded webinar showcasing the web application.

The curriculum includes an overview on the subject, a full glossary of terms, tips on navigating the web application, and five climate change units, each with an introduction, Next Generation Science Standards, associated web application resources, and many individual lesson plans.

G-WOW curriculum

The G-WOW curriculum and resources like the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (PDF) from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission integrate scientific and traditional ecological knowledge. They explore how Western or academic science based on models and measurements, place-based science based on observation and local knowledge, and Native or indigenous knowledge based on long-term, generational relationships with the environment combine to provide a fuller understanding of our changing climate and potential solutions.

I Am a Scientist

I Am a Scientist is a collection of educational resources designed to challenge public misconceptions and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. Resources include storytelling and creative lesson plans to introduce the multifaceted people, purposes, and pathways in STEM.

Project Drawdown Solutions 101

Project Drawdown Solutions 101 is an educational resource focused on climate solutions. Resources include video units, graphics, in-depth conversations, and tangible examples of real-world action.

Project WET curriculum

This curriculum and training from Project WET helps educators teach middle and high school students about climate and climate change using interactive, objective, science-based activities that students will enjoy. Unlike other Project WET publications, the activities in this guide are meant to be taught in sequential order.

Project WET requires that educators attend a workshop to learn the science of climate change and how to localize these lessons for a place-based focus. There is a fee for the training.

Teach Climate Justice Campaign

The Zinn Education Project launched their campaign, "Teach Climate Justice" to teach about the climate crisis in a way that also confronts racism, economic inequality, misogyny, militarism, xenophobia, and that imagines the kind of world that we would like to live in. The free resources include classroom-tested lessons for elementary through high school students, videos, book recommendations, games, and more. These lessons can be used in social studies, language arts, science, and other subjects.

Wildlife and Wetlands toolkit

Map highlight different ecosystems in the United States

This toolkit is for formal and informal educators for grades 6 to 12. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with six other federal agencies developed the kit to aid educators in teaching how climate change is affecting the nation’s wildlife and public lands, and how everyone can become climate stewards.

The free curriculum includes a teachers’ guide, an introduction video, a climate change FAQ, a full glossary of terms, case studies, activities, and fact sheets.

Videos

Climate Change: Wildlife and Wetlands

This 12-minute video (YouTube) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduces students to climate change science and impacts on wildlife and their habitat in the United States. This can be used in conjunction with the Wildlife and Wetlands toolkit. 

Green Careers for a Changing Climate

This 20-minute documentary from Climate Generation introduces students to Green STEM Careers as a solution to climate change. Students will discover careers through interviews with five green STEM professionals, learning the skills needed and possible pathways. Fill out a short form to access the free documentary and instructional supplement.

Our Climate Our Future

Our Climate Our Future is an interactive video series for young people that educates about the science of climate change and empowers them to act. The resources focus on why the story of climate change isn’t just about melting glaciers or disappearing polar bears and is not just about a more dangerous world for far-off future generations. Climate change is really a story about us.

Games

Climate Kids

Climate Kids from NASA includes digital games, humorous illustrations, and animations to help break down the important tissues of climate changes. Climate kids is a free resource for all grades.

Generate: the game of energy choices

This interactive board game was created by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists and enables participants to explore energy choices and the environment in a fun competition setting. The free game can be used to understand the costs and benefits of energy choices we make, find out what happens if the mix of energy choices changes in the future, and learn what energy decisions mean for our climate, air, water, and environment overall.

Cranky Uncle

Cranky Uncle is a game focused on using critical thinking to fight misinformation. The game teaches students how to identify and counteract science denial techniques. The game can be played on a browser or using an app, and a teacher’s guide is available.

Climate Interactive climate action simulation game

The Climate Action Simulation is an interactive, role-playing game that typically takes 2 to 4 hours. Free online training is provided and must be completed to facilitate the game. It is conducted as a simulated emergency climate summit organized by the United Nations that convenes global stakeholders to establish a concrete plan that limits warming to Paris Agreement goals. This game is a fun format for groups to explore climate change solutions and see what it would really take to address this global challenge.

The simulation works best for groups of 20-50 people age high school to adult. A facilitator plays the role of a UN leader, while participant teams represent different global stakeholders. Watch a short video (YouTube) about the simulation. Learn more about the game and online facilitation training.

Books on teaching about climate change

This article from Yale Climate Connections features books about climate change education. There are both books that address the general theory and practice of teaching climate change and books that focus on specific subtopics. Cost varies based on the books, and the article includes purchasing information and links.