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When talking about climate change, it’s our children and their children’s children that are going to be most impacted and yet many know very little about it, if anything. So who is teaching them about it? Parents or educators?

One of the first surveys of its kind was conducted by NPR (National Public Radio) asking parents and teachers if they support the education of climate change. As you can imagine, this then throws up the next question – who should be teaching students about climate change!

When accessing who actually accepted climate change in the first place, on average 14% of adults asked in the US thought it wasn’t true, so that accounts for the majority of the participants who answered the survey with a ‘school should not teach anything about climate change’ response. So out of the adults who felt it should be taught in schools.. When parents and teachers were asked if they were teaching the children in their care about climate change, just under 50% of both groups said yes.

So if more educators and parents think climate change issues should be taught in school than is actually happening, why not? ‘To answer this question, NPR/Ipsos also completed a nationally representative survey of around 500 teachers, and of the educators surveyed – 86% of teachers believe climate change should be taught in schools. But there are multiple reasons why it isn’t happening. More than half, 55%, of teachers we surveyed said they do not cover climate change in their own classrooms or even talk to their students about it.
The most common reason given? Nearly two-thirds (65%) said it’s outside their subject area.’

But this answer stems from many teachers being under-resourced and overworked. When asked for further details, the educators who were not teaching about climate change named many obstacles. In our poll, those teachers were allowed to choose more than one reason.

  • 17% say they don’t have the materials.
  • 17% also say they don’t know enough about the subject to teach it.
  • 4% say their school does not allow the subject to be taught.

Moreover, there also seems to be a divide in terms of resources, attitudes and support between teachers who cover climate change in their classrooms and those who don’t.

The NPR did a call out to teachers in their newsletter to get some first hand accounts to find out more about how they teach climate change. ‘Some teachers we heard from mentioned the divisiveness of the issue and the difficulty in dealing with students whose parents are deniers of climate change.’ “There’s so much political jargon around climate change that I would either have to dismiss their concerns that they bring up or burn a lot of time talking about something that is outside my content area,” said Jack Erickson, a science teacher at Cienega High School in Vail, Ariz.

Some teachers are getting creative in teaching climate change:

In this callout though, about 42% of teachers in our survey said they are indeed finding ways to address climate change in the classroom. NPR heard from far more than just science teachers. Preschool, English, public speaking, Spanish, statistics, social studies teachers — even home economics teachers and librarians — all are finding ways to approach the topic. For example, Rebecca Meyer is an eighth-grade English language arts teacher at Bronx Park Middle School in New York City. Meyer’s students researched water scarcity and then read a “cli-fi” (or climate-fiction) novel by Mindy McGinnis called Not a Drop to Drink. “The main character, Lynn, lives in a version of the U.S. where physical water scarcity is the norm. As we read the novel, kids made connections between what is happening today and the novel,” she told NPR. “They were very engaged; they loved it. They learned so much they didn’t know.”

Another teacher – Erin Royer’s at Steele Elementary School in Denver says “If you teach from a problem-based learning style, students will repeatedly arrive at climate change as the cause and effect of many problems/issues in their world. Whether the topic is animals, energy, or hurricanes and wildfires, when they read information, through their research, put out by reliable scientists, they arrive at climate change again and again.”

Students are feeling the effects:

As the political debate continues, more and more students don’t have to wait to learn about climate impacts in the classroom. That’s because they are experiencing them in their daily lives. Whether through fire, floods, air pollution or extreme weather patterns.

At Natural Pod we certainly don’t wish to get into a political debate, but we do stand by promoting environmental responsibility and sustainability regardless of one’s beliefs about climate change. All Natural Pod wood products are made with FSC® C012337-certified materials and are ethically manufactured providing furniture that is not only long lasting, but also recyclable and 100% compostable at the end of its life-cycle. In the classroom the pieces tell a story and are a great aid to environmental education. Educators and children can learn where the products come from, what they are made of, and how the choices they make can impact their learning environment and the natural world.

Thank you to NPR and Anya Kamenetz for this research.