Climate Change in the Classroom Part 3: Environmental Science/Biology

There might not be a specific climate change standard in your state, but that doesn’t mean climate change doesn’t fit. This blog is number three of a four part series about the activities, lessons, and standards that teachers from various subject areas and grade levels are using to teach climate change in their classrooms. Content was collected from teacher papers completed for graduate credit through Hamline University after attending our 13th annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education. Educators wrote about the importance of teaching climate change and the new ways they will bring climate change to students in chemistry, language arts, biology, and environmental science from grade 3-12.

Richa and Carolyn offer a discussion and plan on how they will integrate climate change into their high school biology classes and 8th-grade science class.

Richa D., Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, MN

In my current 12th-grade biology curriculum, there aren’t any standards where I can fit in climate change. However, it’s possible to add extensions to current standards and required lab skills to promote students’ critical thinking. My plan is to break down climate change into 2 pieces — the understanding of climate change — its causes, impacts, greenhouse effect, carbon cycle, sea level change, and rise in global temperatures. This would all fit well in my Energetics Unit along with Photosynthesis. And later in the year, when I work on the Ecology Unit with my students, I can include the second piece — human impact on climate change — constructing explanations and designing solutions for a better future.

In my curriculum, I have been working with the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) model for a couple of years now and I’ll use the lessons on reading graphs [from Next Generation Climate] on CER to help students practice the model.


Carolyn R., Eastview Middle School, IL

I also enjoyed going to the session on Phenology. When I was listening to [the presenter’s] project I came up with some ideas on how I can incorporate this into my classroom. [On our school campus] we have a wetland, some tree sections, and then other areas of vegetation. I would divide the campus into sections, each student would have a specific section to observe. We would start right at the end of winter (late February or early March). I would start with once a week going outside and completing the observations.

I would use this in two ways: so students will be able to observe the outside environment, but more importantly it will help the work on their observation skills. They will be able to compare what they see over the weeks and hopefully will be able to see the changes. I also hope to include information about the USA National Phenology website. I will discuss or come up with activities that involve the changing of the seasons and last frost dates over the years.

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