Teach Climate

November 11, 2010
By: Kristen Poppleton, Senior Director of Programs

Concepts in climate education

Every fall I teach an online course for graduate students in education at Hamline University called Communicating Climate Change in the Classroom.  The goal is that in four short weeks students will walk away with the knowledge, skills and comfort to teach climate change in their classroom.  This time constraint, as well as the need to truly identify what is important AND effective when teaching this issue led me to some deeper thinking and reasearch on what concepts are most important to understand when teaching climate change.

So what is a climate literate person?
A lot of work and discussion has been done on and is being done on this front.  According to the Climate Literacy Network(CLN), “climate literacy is an understanding of your influence on the climate and climate’s influence on you and society.”
A climate-literate person
* understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system,
* knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate,
* communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way, and
* is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.

A direct result of CLN was the development of Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science.  These 7 principles address the first bullet point and are excellent in terms of climate science, but not comprehensive. 

I also appreciated a series of posts by Philip Camill at Bowdoin College delving into why people don’t engage with climate change.  He breaks it down into five major problems seen below that broaden and elaborate on concepts relevant to the three bullet points not covered by the Principles of Climate Science.


I have developed my own list of concepts with corresponding readings that I think are important, at least as a starting point.  In general they fall more in the realm of understanding the nature of science.  They include :
Longitudinal Data
Corroborating Evidence
Climate vs. Weather

Do you know of better sources to help define these concepts?  What do you think is missing?