Thursday, June 29, 2017

Teachers share experiences teaching about climate

Teaching about climate change can be difficult in rural areas where the topic is highly politicized. Amy Harmon of The New York Times published a follow-up Wednesday to her original piece, which ran earlier this month. Both pieces get at the interaction between teachers, students and parents, and provide ideas for how the story can be told in other places. The follow-up, though, includes perspective from actual teachers who wrote to Harmon after reading her original piece.

"Climate change, of course, is a politically fraught topic in the United States, where Republican politicians and representatives of the fossil fuel industry have sought to cast doubt on the established science of human-caused global warming," Harmon writes in Wednesday's piece. "Even most states that have adopted the scientific consensus as part of their education standards — and many have not — so far do not require assessments of whether students understand it. And one recent survey suggests that some science teachers simply skim over the topic. But many of the teachers I heard from, including those in conservative strongholds, described efforts to impart the reality of climate change whether or not it was an official part of the curriculum."

Here's what teachers told Harmon about their experiences teaching climate change:

Jenny Pye, a home-school teacher in Greenville, N.C., writes, "There's strong evidence to support the theory that humans are contributing to climate change, so I teach that, and I also teach the controversy surrounding it to my kids. We live in a rural, conservative area, and especially as home-schoolers, we have lots of friends who have reached different conclusions. It's important to teach the difference between good and bad science."

Miller and his students in Prince William Sound
(Credit: Josh Miller)
As a marine technology teacher in Valdez, Alaska, Josh Miller has a unique opportunity to not only teach about climate change, but demonstrate it. "We’re an oil town that voted two-to-one for Trump, but when the sea level rises and you live on the coast, you need to be aware that the world is changing and consider what you can do about it," Miller writes. "My students learn about climate change by taking a boat ride up a fjord, which until very recently was a glacier. The massive Columbia Glacier has retreated (melted) 12 miles since my first boat trip in 1983. Where recently was land, today is ocean. The day of our 2015 class trip, the last of the ice washed out of West Arm, and our vessel was the first boat in our planet’s history to navigate this new sea. Not all teachers are so lucky to have such dramatic evidence of climate change to prove the case."

Elizabeth McClearly, a teacher in Lawrence, Mass., uses humor to teach about how agriculture impacts climate change. "My eighth grade students are most surprised to see how agricultural farming plays a role — they enjoy hearing how 'cow farts' are a leading contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases. Ha! Like I said: eighth graders."

No comments: