Climate Change Education in Schools

Young people are deeply concerned about the climate crisis. Many are angry that action is still not being taken when it is their future at stake. Younger children often also already have some awareness of the issue.  But what is an age-appropriate way to engage with the climate crisis in the classroom? How can we give them an education fit for the future?

This page is intended as a starting point for teachers and others to find resources for climate change education.

  • 75% of teachers feel they haven’t received adequate training to educate students about climate change
  • 69% of teachers think there should be more teaching about climate change in UK schools
  • 68% of pupils want to learn more about the environment and climate change

(Click here for references)

Teach the Future

Teach the Future is a youth-led campaign to urgently repurpose the entire education system around the climate emergency and ecological crisis. This is one of the demands of the UK school strikers. Since January 2019, students have been striking from school once a month to protest the government's lack of action on the climate crisis. These strikes, organised by the UK Students Climate Network, are based around four key demands. One of these demands is that the government reforms the education system to teach young people about the urgency, severity and scientific basis of the climate crisis.
Read the full list of demands here
 
UKSCN and SOS-UK are planning a parliamentary reception for 26th February 2020 for the 'Teach the Future' campaign. 
  • Can you support them? Write your local MP asking for education reform! Find a template here.

It is highly important for universities, schools, colleges and other education institutions to integrate into the curiculum themes related to understanding the climate and ecological crisis to allow young people to be informed and empowered to address the urgency of the crisis in their futures. 
 
To find more ideas and resources which can be used in schools, colleges and universities, check out the NEU and UCU websites.

Resources

How to approach teaching climate change:

  • Leeds DEC have designed a ‘Climate curriculum’ in consultation with experts suggesting key learning outcomes by the end of each key stage of learning e.g. key terminology & impacts of climate change.
  • Paul Turner, Head of Geography at Bedales School in Hampshire has compiled a variety of resources in order to equip teachers to teach the climate emergency. Including material to read, videos to watch & content to teach.
  • Talk by Jo McAndrews concerning how to approach the topic of climate change in children 3-7 years (33.35 mins), 7-14 years (38.30 mins), and 14 years + (42.10 mins). Also, involving children in activism (46.26 mins).
  • Blog post about teaching 4-7 years olds about climate science and action (bear in mind what information is age appropriate when talking about the impacts of climate change).

Whole school approaches:

  • comprehensive guide has been put together by a teacher from Morpeth school in London for how to declare a meaningful climate emergency in your school or college. The guide includes tips from the writers personal experience and a large selection of resources including lists, templates and timetables in order to make the process easier. The sections of the guide include: gathering feedback for your climate emergency, pitching your climate emergency, launching your eco council, launching your climate emergency and going forward after the initial declaration. 
  • Eco-schools provide guidance and practical support for how apply for green flag and become a successful eco school by working through the seven steps to green flag success.

Primary school:

  • NASA Climate Kids: Resources available include videos, games, projects and articles to help inform and raise awareness of climate change.
  • World Wildlife Fund: For KS1-KS3, for both primary & secondary with teachers support packs, activity & quiz sheets and presentation slides.
  • Climate Generation: Resources are available include educating the public and students from grades 3 to 12, in order to build climate literacy. Resources include, but not restricted to, lesson plans, research projects and group discussions. Some topics covered include how to communicate the issue of climate change, effects of global warming, ways of mitigation climate impacts and climate solutions being discussed on the national and international stage.
  • Oxfam Education - Climate Challenge: for 7-11 year olds. Includes lesson plans, engaging activities, games and discussions to help investigate the causes of climate change, the consequences, mitigation and adaptation and more
  • Practical Action: Resources are available for KS1 to KS4 pupils and students older than 16. Includes PowerPoint presentations, activities, posters, challenges, images, videos and games covering energy, climate change and disaster risk reduction
  • Science Museum: Climate Report: Resources include notes for teachers and templates for cubes, which the students make. Cubes cover three areas - Australia, Russia and Costa Rica - in 2011 and what could happen in 2051. Students will learn the difference between weather and climate, appreciate the diversity of climate types around the world, and its impact, and predictions of what could happen in the next 40 years.
  • Sustainability and Environmental Education (SEEd) provide resources for primary school educators to teach about a number of topics concerning nature e.g. energy & climate change, water, nature & biodiversity, food & farming.
  • UNESCO provides multimedia educational resources for primary schools including ideas for classroom activities under the topic of ‘climate action’. 
  • Encounter Edu has compiled a list of resources for KS1-4 organised into activities, multimedia and teaching resources with both units and individual lessons.

Secondary school:

  • Oxfam Education - Climate Challenge: for 11-14 year olds. Includes lesson plans, engaging activities, games and discussions to help investigate the causes of climate change, the consquences, mitigation and adaptation and more.
  • Science Museum - Carbon Cycle Caper: Resources include notes for teachers, questions, process cards and a presentation. Students "play out" the carbon cycle, understand how it has affected our use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution and its impacts on the climate
  • Science Museum - Climate report: Resources include notes for teachers and templates for cubes, which the students make. Cubes cover three areas - Australia, Russia and Costa Rica - in 2011 and what could happen in 2051. Students will learn the difference between weather and climate, appreciate the diversity of climate types around the world, and its impact, and predictions of what could happen in the next 40 years.
  • Climate breakdown lesson plans - 14 lessons aimed at Year 10 with supporting videos created by “geography-paul” Paul Turner. Head of Geography at Bedales School in Hampshire.
  • World Wildlife Fund: For KS1-KS3, for both primary & secondary with teachers support packs, activity & quiz sheets and presentation slides.
  • Climate Coalition (For The Love Of...): includes information about the main issues of climate change for children from 11-16 years old, workshops, ways of taking action (in school, contacting your MP or organising an event), developing statistical and mathematical approaches to global issues (for both 11-14 and 14-16 year olds).
  • Climate Generation: Resources are available include educating the public and students from grades 3 to 12, in order to build climate literacy. Resources include, but not restricted to, lesson plans, research projects and group discussions. Some topics covered include how to communicate the issue of climate change, effects of global warming, ways of mitigation climate impacts and climate solutions being discussed on the national and international stage.
  • Oxfam, Making the Change: Female Climate Fighters: resources include cross-curricular ideas to support learning and critical thinking about climate change. Provided are information about climate change, personal stories, a short film narrated by the poet, Roger McGough, relating to the issues of climate change, and ideas to engage students through activites and discussion.
  • Power Down: Resources are available for KS3 pupils including ways to learn about climate change and its impacts, investigate ways of reducing energy waste and act, by coming up with solutions to climate change issues. Resources come in lesson ideas, videos, images, whole lessons, photo cards, activity and information sheets. Can either be downloaded for free or a package can be bought for £15
  • Baked Alaska theatre company present 7 short films around the issues around climate change with accompanying teaching resources and PowerPoint presentation. Targeted at RE students aged 13-18 years.
  • Extinction rebellion provides useful learning resources for different subject areas for KS1-5. They also provide information or how to declare a climate emergency & lessons about the importance of climate action and the work of extinction rebellion themselves.
  • UNESCO provides multimedia educational resources for secondary schools including ideas for classroom activities under the topic of ‘climate action’. Also provide a digital library course for secondary school teachers.
  • Encounter Edu has compiled a list of resources for KS1-4 organised into activities, multimedia and teaching resources with both units and individual lessons.

Health Warning!

As part of their charm offensive, some companies, which support the use of gas, coal, etc., run educational events and produce resources for schools. We recommend that you avoid resources produced by these companies, e.g. BP, as we don't think they are the most unbiased source when climate change is involved.

References: 

  • Green Schools Project / NUS pupil survey (3,000 responses, upper primary and secondary, mostly England, Dec 2018)
  • UKSCN / Oxfam teachers survey (350 responses, primary and secondary, UK wide, May 2019)