Climate change is not only posing a physical threat to children, but it is also taking an extreme mental health toll with eco-anxiety on the rise. Climate education is a proven but underutilized tool to help prepare children with the tools and knowledge they need for the future they will face. In a UNESCO survey, 95% of teachers said they believe climate education is important to teach in schools, yet less than 40% of them felt confident to teach it.
We want to help teachers integrate climate education in a simple and realistic way, removing the burden from teachers on how to plan, embed and connect climate education for children. These suggestions align to the National Curriculum for England, to help you include climate change and sustainability in a positive and age appropriate way. Climate education is not just for science, it can and should be integrated into every subject as much as possible. The mindsets and habits we embed today will last a lifetime.
What teachers can teach to integrate climate education into their subjects in a practical, time conscious way:
- Looking at age appropriate media and news articles about climate change as part of reading comprehension and critical thinking, including identifying accuracy and bias
- Writing about climate change and sustainability issues: Adapting their writing for a wide range of purposes and audiences: to describe, narrate, explain, instruct, give and respond to information, and argue.
- Climate action projects: Working effectively in groups of different sizes and taking on required roles, including leading and managing discussions, involving others productively, reviewing and summarising, and contributing to meeting goals/deadlines.
- Collecting, manipulating and analysing data about plants, animals and the weather or using school data if possible
- Develop their use of formal mathematical knowledge to interpret and solve problems, including in financial contexts, e.g. the financial case for retrofitting buildings to achieve carbon neutrality.
- Use statistics to manipulate and analyse local climate change and sustainability data from the local authority and school.
- Understanding the basics of what plants and animals, including humans, need for life.
- Understand that animals and plants need each other, for example, food chains.
- Showing awareness of the impact of values on scientific investigations, and being transparent about the subjective nature of knowledge
- Interpreting observations and other data, including identifying patterns and trends, making inferences and drawing conclusions, e.g. using local, national and international climate change data.
Art and Design
- To use a range of materials creatively to design and make sustainable art.
- To begin to consider the environment in the selection of artistic tools and materials.
- The characteristics, properties, origins, effects and wider impact of using different media, materials, techniques and processes (including the circular economy), and the ways in which they can be used in relation to students’ own creative intentions and chosen area(s) of study as well as the impact on the environment.
Design and Technology
- To begin to evaluate products by considering environmental impact.
- Demonstrate an ability to write a design brief and specifications from their own and others’ considerations of human needs, wants, interests and environmental considerations.
- Understand that people, animals and plants have adapted to their current climate conditions.
- Start to think about how human and physical geography crossover, for example, in gardens, farms and tree plantations.
- Understanding of the greenhouse effect, the spatial and temporal characteristics, of climatic change and evidence for different causes, including human activity, from the beginning of the Quaternary period (2.6 million years ago) to the present day including an acknowledgement of the accelerating nature of global temperature increase and the extent of scientific consensus around the likely implications of this rise.
- Changes within living memory, including extreme weather events and construction. Where appropriate, these should be used to reveal aspects of change in national life and the environment.
- One thematic study involving the study of people and their environments, events and developments. Thematic studies should include an environmental perspective such as humans’ impact on the planet, our changing relationships to the natural world or the environmental dimension of power.
- Make musical instruments out of recycled materials
- Make up their own songs about looking after the environment.
- The role of the arts, including music, in bringing about social change both through activism and by providing opportunities for creative solutions.
- Learn basic survival skills with an appreciation for the natural world.
- Notice aspects of nature, weather and habitats when exercising outdoors, such as insects or animals (ex. During the daily mile).
- Understand the contribution which physical activity, sport and outdoor exercise in nature make to health, fitness and well-being.