“It’s not climate change–it’s everything change.” Margaret Atwood
Climate change can be studied in any subject: English, math, social, studies and science. It’s imperative for young people to learn about the issue through multiple disciplines in order to have the tools to respond to the climate crisis. These lesson plans and activities can be used for a variety of student ages and subjects. The objectives of these activies range from imparting an understanding of climate change to empowering students to actively work toward solutions in their own schools and communities.
Climate Change Lessons
This is an interdisciplinary collection of lesson plans, with detailed step-by-step instructions, that are appropriate for high school and college students. The lessons, which often involve readings and lectures, are designed so that teachers across the world can use them to introduce climate science and climate change examples and case studies. The lessons are focused on enhancing understanding of topics in the Sciences, Mathematics, Social Sciences, and other disciplines to foster interdisciplinary thinking around the issue.
This Climate Clock computer-based lesson teaches math, environmental science, and computer science. In this Hour of Code activity, students will be guided through the construction of their own climate clock. They will engage with objects, properties, variables, functions, and loops, and customize their message to convey their message for the world and their hopes for the future. This lesson is aligned with Computer Science Teachers Association Standards, aimed at grades 6+, and requires an internet-connected computer for every student or student group.
Climate Generation is a non-profit focused on climate literacy, education, youth leadership, and community engagement for developing innovative climate change solutions. They offer NGSS-aligned and inter-disciplinary climate change curriculum for grades 3-12, teacher professional development, a summer institute for climate education geared to teachers, a Teach Climate Network, and Youth Environmental Activists groups for students to take climate action at their schools. Curricula guides can be downloaded for free with account creation (requires name, email address, phone, and address).
New Mexico teachers of 4-12th grade students are eligible to participate in the Climate Innovation Challenge organized by CAVU in Santa Fe. Participating teachers receive curriculum, training, and supplemental classroom support to guide students through the development of a project focused on climate change adaptation and then produce a video about their project. Students compete in a student showcase, and students with the winning projects receive cash prizes and other awards. The associated curriculum is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.
CLEAN is a collection of 700+ free, ready-to-use learning resources that have been rigorously reviewed by educators and scientists. The resources and lessons are suitable for middle school through higher education classrooms. From producing a play to a lesson on climate-resilient cities, this site is divided into 2 general topics: climate and energy. Each project comes with teaching tips, reviews of the science, and pedagogy. The database is searchable by terms, such as Next Generation Science Standards alignment.
This high-school lesson plan includes discussions, activities, and a detailed guide of how to create a model to understand the role of the cryosphere in determining the climate of the planet and specifically the Ice Albedo Feedback. Internet-connected computers for each student or group are required. The lesson plan includes links to all needed software.
This National Informal STEM Education Network lesson is a guided conversation for middle and high school students. Students use a set of issues and character cards to consider the importance of women’s rights to sustainability. They learn that creating an equitable society with equal rights and access to opportunities for all will have a big impact on whether the world can achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A discussion of atmospheric carbon dioxide and policies to lower it is included. The program can be done in person or online.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) features a large collection of Next Generation Science Standards-aligned, federally-funded climate teaching materials. Resources are available for grades 3-adult. Use the search feature to search by topic or grade level.
These teacher-tested and engineer-vetted classroom materials include hands-on activities, lesson plans, maker challenges, engineering design challenges, and whole units related to climate change for every age level. Educators may search by grade level, time required, subject area, and further narrow search results by other factors. Activities are aligned to the Next Generation Science standards and other national standards.
The USDA Southwest Climate Hub education materials, developed by the Asombro Institute for Science Education, include several units for 6th-12th graders that are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards. Within each unit, the lessons can be conducted in sequence as a module, or they can be completed individually as standalone lessons. The lessons teach current climate research through fun, hands-on activities that require only minimal, inexpensive materials. There are many free resources online for each lesson, including educator guides with step-by-step instructions, handouts with answer keys, and slide presentations. These rigorous activities have been thoroughly tested with students and reviewed by educators and scientists.
The Youth v. Gov. Teacher Tool Kit is a multi-disciplinary program for 6th-12th grade students about the Juliana vs. US lawsuit in which a group of young people assert that the US Government has failed to protect their constitutional rights through actions that cause climate change. The toolkit provides useful and empowering educational tools, including information on the Juliana vs. US case, detailed lesson plans, and classroom handouts. Also included are links to moving videos and Ted talks from some of the youthful case defendants. There is also a PowerPoint presentation, “Pathway to Climate Recovery” that not only shows the effects of climate change but also a step-by-step outline of what can be done. This excellent timeline about the lawsuit could enliven instruction and serve as an additional resource.
Climate Solutions Lessons
To see young New Mexico climate activists in action, visit our NM Climate Kids page.
Climate Change: Creating Solutions for our Future is a curriculum developed for grades 4-6 by the Pan-Canadian Science Framework for Canadian Science Education. It consists of six lessons, which guide students through developing their understanding that climate change is caused by human activities, participating in a game show to measure their knowledge, creating Earth models, utilizing online activities and resources, and learning about the “World Wide Web” connecting trees, soil, water, and humans. Students then choose a challenge to get involved in their school or community.
This 5th-grade unit plan guides students through learning about climate change and other environmental issues and how they are impacting our world, with a focus on food waste and landfills. Students learn about composting as a solution, and the unit culminates with writing letters to the editor. The unit is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.
This education and action pack created by Tagd and UNICEF is designed to get 5th-8th grade students thinking about and taking action on climate change. The lessons guide students through learning about the impacts of climate change, considering big questions like who is responsible for it and who can help solve it, and planning actions they can take.
This initiative involves international design competitions for renewable energy art installations. Their educational resources support STEAM, project-based learning programming that will allow 6th-12th grade students to design their own installations while applying design, urban planning, and energy engineering concepts. Resources include a comprehensive Field Guide to renewable materials including colored photovoltaics and energy harvesting devices, games for generating design ideas, a climate change puzzle, a design competition guide, and great renewable energy infographics. The organization is also available to conduct workshops, lectures, and brainstorming.
Remote Climate Lessons
These four middle and high school activities were adapted from the USDA Southwest Climate Hub Climate Change and the Water Cycle Unit for remote learning. They include a student packet with step-by-step instructions that can be completed at home. The activities range from a board game to data analysis and are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.
In this recorded Zoom lesson for middle and high school students, Fiana Shapiro of the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center explains climate change and its effects on wildfires in the southwest. The lesson was hosted by Nature Ninos New Mexico.
Climate Kids is an interactive and visually appealing website about the effects of climate change for kids that can be used by 4th-8th graders on their own or as part of a school assignment. It includes hands-on activities, videos, easy-to-understand interviews with scientists to encourage careers in STEM, and more.
In this recorded Zoom lesson for middle and high school students, Fiana Shapiro of the Sandia Mountain Natural History Center explains how wildlife is affected by and adapts to ecosystem changes, including climate change, and how scientists study these impacts in the southwest. The lesson was hosted by Nature Ninos New Mexico.
The TED Ed Earth School has three short video-based climate change activities on their site. These include: The Nature of Climate Change; I’m only a kid, what can I do about climate change?; and Can wildlife adapt to climate change? The activities, appropriate for 5th-8th grade, include a video and an online discussion, and some also include a quiz to assess understanding of the video content. Students can create a free account with an email address to track progress on the activities over time or simply enter their first name when responding to questions on the website (no tracking will occur).
These video-based activities focus on climate solutions. The activities, appropriate for 5th-8th grade, include a video and a quiz to assess understanding of the video content. The short animated video series examines climate solutions such as materials that could change the world, what’s the best fuel, how much electricity we need, the myth of the boiling frog. Students can create a free account with an email address to track progress on the activities over time or simply enter their first name when responding to questions on the website (no tracking will occur).