"Think Globally, Act Locally"
Thinking about global climate change can be overwhelming. It is difficult to comprehend how human activity can have a significant impact when thinking on the spatial scales of the Earth's oceans, atmosphere, landmasses, and ice.
Global climate change is a serious environmental challenge that we will be handing off to our next generation, so it is critical that climate change science be revisited regularly in the K-12 classroom. Yet, environmental educators caution against presenting "gloom and doom" scenarios to children who are not emotionally equipped or developmentally ready for dealing with issues that threaten their sense of security and survival.
A leading researcher in this field, Daniel Sobel, argues against the premature presentation of abstract ideas such as rainforest destruction or global warming. He cautions there is a danger that if students feel anxiety, fear or hopelessness in relation to the environment too early in their development, they become less capable emotionally of bonding with nature and less willing to make the behavioral changes that must take place in our society to forge a sustainable future. Examining personal, family and community choices related to consumption, energy use and recycling provides a meaningful and pedagogically appropriate introduction to the study of climate change, especially for K-8 students. But when you are examining a problem as global as climate change, how can you show students that their efforts make a difference?
Examining personal, family, and community choices related to consumption, energy use, and recycling provides a meaningful and pedagogically appropriate introduction to the study of climate change, especially for K-8 students. While we are most interested in how to effectively teach about climate change to students, the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) provides these guidelines to improve effective climate communication to the public:
In order for climate science information to be fully absorbed by audiences, it must be actively communicated with appropriate language, metaphor, and analogy; combined with narrative storytelling; made vivid through visual imagery and experiential scenarios; balanced with scientific information; and delivered by trusted messengers in group settings.
– CRED (2009)
Interestingly, CRED also advocates for framing climate change as a local, rather than global issue, for the very reason that it is then possible to tap a learner's sense of connection to their community. In addition, this approach also promotes the development of critically needed local and regional solutions that could transfer well to the national and global arenas and, further, inspire future action everywhere.
Examine the "Becoming Green Energy Experts" professional development resource from PBS LearningMedia to see a great example of how kids have taken the initiative to make a difference through service learning. How can acting and thinking like scientists assist students in becoming valued citizens in their communities?
Finally, explore the "Share How You and Your Family Help Our Planet" interactive, to see how students around the world are contributing to slowing the rate of carbon emissions and preserving biodiversity.
What are your ideas for inspiring your students to think globally and act locally?
How might you use data from NASA and activities such as the Carbon Kidprint Calculator to help you?
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