Climate Education: Minnesota Students Connecting with Japanese Students

Electric Car Station

In 2015, I attended my first Climate Generation Summer Institute for Teachers with one burning question: “Why doesn’t every high school in Minnesota require Earth & Space Science for graduation?”

As a geologist, I value our dependence on the earth and often wonder, “Where do our materials come from?” Though my passion for geology guided me into teaching, Climate Generation strengthened my understanding of the need for climate education at every level. I am fortunate to focus my climate education on high school students in an Earth Science course required for graduation. The root of understanding climate change in this course begins with the past: analyzing ice cores. We study the science of climate change before discussing challenges and solutions. Climate Generation provided their Summer Institute teachers with data resources and lessons to connect science with local changes.

Elementary School Drawings

Though we depend on the Earth’s resources to survive, human innovation is capable of balancing our needs with sustainable practices. The Japanese believe it is the responsibility of humans to be stewards of the land; to be mindful and care for our planet.

As a recent participant in the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), I collaborated with eleven U.S. teachers and twelve Japanese teachers to better understand the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and develop curriculum for our classrooms.

2017 Participants
Middle School Classroom

We toured Japanese UNESCO schools and visited cities that are proud of their environmental transformation. Kitakyushu, on the south island of Japan, has become an eco-center for green energy and recycling. Once an industrial town marketed as a tourist destination for the “colored skies” (pollution from factories), the city’s transition began in the 1960s when women collected environmental data to show the health impacts on their community and the environment. Women convinced the city government and the industry to work together and create environmental change.

Student desk with helmet for natural disaster response

At two joint conferences (San Francisco in May and Tokyo in June), global partnerships among teacher participants developed and small group projects around ESD curriculum formed. Projects included food, weather, natural disasters, policy, and art. Students in Minnesota are focused on natural disasters and human innovation. My focus on the science of climate change has expanded to show students that humans worldwide are resilient and capable of sustainability.

Although my burning question on graduation requirements remains, I am hopeful that every student develops awareness of the changes taking place on our planet. I am optimistic that our youth will discuss the science behind climate change in all subjects and at every grade level.


Climate Generation provides teachers with background knowledge to facilitate these discussions. Our global youth have the power to lead with cultural awareness and innovation to help build a sustainable future.

Cultural Experience: Wearing kimono playing koto (traditional harp)
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