This summer Climate Generation offered a series of workshops through our TeachScience program which aims to connect the new Minnesota science standards, renewable energy, and STEM opportunities through teacher training and support across the state to prepare students for the challenges and careers of the future. We met passionate teachers around the state that are working to embed climate change education into their classrooms and offered a participatory workshop experience that fostered connections between educators and their broader community. Read on to learn more about the importance of these types of professional development opportunities, what we learned, and where we’re going.
Schools and Living Laboratories
The schools as living laboratories framework sees the surrounding infrastructure, environment, and community as places where learning can and should happen to prepare students to lead thriving communities. This methodology brings together teachers, students, families, research institutions, local policy makers, professionals, and other non-formal education institutions to transform schools into agents of community and address local issues that matter to them.
Schools as living laboratories look different depending on local issues and community interest, which is one of this framework’s greatest strengths! This poster explores some of the ways Climate Generation is using the framework to guide interdisciplinary climate change education that fosters collective action towards climate justice.
Education and schools ARE climate solutions
Schools around the nation are responding to climate change by understanding their role as a solution by investing in clean energy systems, school gardens and farms, alternative transportation plans, and weaving climate change education into their lessons. Many of these actions are student-driven. By embedding climate solutions into curriculum, educators can build the technical and adaptive skills students need to work intergenerationally as leaders in their schools and communities.
The Energy Landscape and Climate Change
What would you do without electricity for a day? A week? A month? What circumstances would make that harder or easier to get by?
Extreme weather events and irregular weather patterns exacerbated by climate change make this vulnerable electricity grid a threat to people’s lives and everyday routines. People around the country are experiencing disproportionate hardship due to our inefficient electricity systems, which create high costs for basic energy needs. Living in drafty houses with old heaters, poorly maintained apartments, and poorly insulated mobile homes not only costs more to keep warm, but puts families at health risks from cold drafts, mold, and noxious fumes or fire hazards from alternative heating sources.
Production of electricity must move away from fossil fuels and our current electricity system must be reimagined to be resilient, to meet modern demands and to keep costs low.
- Disruptions to Energy Supply
- Interruptions to Electricity Transmission
- Strain on the Energy System
- Increased Air Pollution and Climate Change
The Power of Green Professionals and Green Careers
Green Careers are careers that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment, protect people, conserve natural resources, provide equitable and meaningful employment, or make the production process more environmentally friendly.
According to the Brookings Institute, training the next generation of green workers hinges on more intentional, proactive local leadership around a core set of challenges:
- The need to emphasize green skills more than green jobs.
- The need to recognize the greening nature of existing work
- The need to boost equity and reach more and different types of workers.
A just transition to a clean energy economy is a chance to close Minnesota’s education and workforce gap, bringing green jobs to all communities who have been hurt and impacted by fossil fuels and climate change so they can shape our future with climate justice.
Bring it to the Teachers!
Climate Generation’s TeachScience program offered 3 regional two-day workshops around Minnesota that brought science, engineering, and education together to provide a foundation for learning the new Minnesota middle school science energy and climate change standards and supported learners in building green career awareness and skills.
Teachers engaged in:
- Weaving together science and social justice standards
- Behind the scenes tours of a school buildings major energy systems
- Discussing regional sustainability issues & green career skills with green professionals
- School assessments and energy audits
- STEM focused renewable energy lessons
- Student led energy action projects to further transform their school into a climate solution
These workshops were made successful by connecting educators with local partners, including:
- Minnesota State Energy Center of Excellence
- School Facilities Teams
- Clean Energy Resource Teams
- Local Green Professionals
Through these workshops, we saw a rise in confidence in teachers’ ability to teach various topics related to climate change and green careers (Figure 1). Many educators reported leaving the workshops feeling “inspired” and “hopeful” (Figure 2). The participatory nature of these workshops built relationships with fellow teachers and community partners, helping us bring the schools as living laboratories framework to life.
“This was a very memorable experience. The hands on activities were great and I really enjoyed the connections I made with everyone that attended, including those that led the workshop. I learned new and relevant information I can share with my students, colleagues and school district. I felt empowered to do my part to help our environment and encourage others to do the same.” -TeachScience Workshop Participant
We are excited to continue this work and offer a year of support to educators seeking to deepen their practice of climate change and climate justice education through virtual webinars, connections to local green professionals, and opportunities to build a community of practice.
Climate Generation’s Teaching Resources
Experience Energy uses an interdisciplinary approach that helps students see that social, economic, and environmental systems are connected through a thread of energy, and that climate and energy issues are intertwined.
What’s in the curriculum?
- Self and group reflection on values
- Food and carbon cycles games in relation to energy
- Community energy use interviews exploring how energy use has changed over time and for different groups of people
- Why do fuels matter? Environmental justice mapping exploration
- School energy audits and tours with facilities teams
- Renewable energy “choose your own adventure” experimentation
- Assessing the school community for current climate change solutions opportunities
- Action planning for student led climate change solutions at their schools
Green Careers for a Changing Climate & Green Professionals in the Classroom Toolkit
As more schools and cities add renewable energy as an electricity source, there is an opportunity and need to integrate renewable energy and green jobs skills into our classrooms. It is imperative that we build a clear, well-marked path from education to careers to create possibilities for students to work in the renewable energy fields and create solutions that solve our energy problems.
Climate Generation has collaboratively developed 3 resources to help teachers bring green careers into their classrooms:
- Green Careers for a Changing Climate Documentary & Discussion Guide: a twenty-minute documentary that introduces students to Green STEM Careers as a solution to climate change. Students will discover these careers through interviews with eight green STEM professionals, learning the skills needed and possible pathways to a Green STEM Career.
- Green Careers Careers for a Changing Climate: a 6-8th grade interdisciplinary curriculum featuring hands-on activities to identify and practice various green career skills
- Green Professionals in the Classroom Toolkit: a resource to 1) prepare Green Career Professionals to teach about their career and its role in creating climate change solutions as inspiration for future generations and 2) increase educator and student awareness of Green Careers as solutions to climate change and the pathways and requirements for entering Green Careers
Seeing and using schools as living laboratories—places that bring science, engineering, and education together using their own environment and infrastructure—is an opportunity to encourage students to be scientists and social leaders working on climate solutions in their own community. Through training educators, fostering collaboration and connection, and addressing the systemic challenges educators face in offering quality climate change education we can equip the next generation with the tools, skills, and mindsets needed to thrive in resilient communities.
Are you a Minnesota educator interested in participating in the TeachScience Year of Support? Are you a Minnesota green professional, government official, or community member interested in connecting with educators? Contact email@example.com.
Join Climate Generation’s Teach Climate Network to follow our work, and to get connected to a community of educators and climate change education leaders.
Explore and download the resources mentioned here and many more free toolkits, curricula, and activities on Climate Generations Resource Library.
Funding for TeachScience is provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).