- Educators bringing climate change into the classroom are facing obstacles, even as a recent NPR/Ipsos poll shows that 86% of teachers believe the topic should be taught in schools, wrote The Hechinger Report.
- Melissa Lau, a teacher working with 6th graders in Piedmont, Oklahoma, focuses on teaching students how to use science to respond to climate-change deniers. At the same time, she is careful not to characterize people who work in the energy industry as bad.
- Lau, who grew up in the state, notes that the effects of climate change aren't always obvious. Still, she wants students to be aware of the shift happening around them and for them to understand the impact, but without making them feel too worried, or helpless.
When teaching potentially charged topics in schools, chief academic officers and staff may want to consider how to bring these subjects into classrooms in a way that is less polarizing for students.
One approach, often used when discussing controversial issues is to teach students how to look at both sides of an argument — and be able to make points on either side. This skill can be brought into the curriculum of many subjects, from English language arts to science, and is common in debate programs both at the middle and high school level.
Another approach is to teach students how to handle disagreements with civility and tolerance of others' perspectives, which ties into social-emotional learning goals. Educators may also want to teach about the subject by putting their own opinions aside, and avoid getting too political, Using outside resources, such as lessons from the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — which are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards — can help teachers present information in a neutral way, while still driving home the impact that humans have on the world around them.
Finally, curriculum officers may want to keep parents in the loop about any potentially politically charged lessons planned, explaining materials and sources that will be used. Having that information in hand, may help put parents at ease and can head off complaints later from parents who felt they weren't informed in advance.