Resources for Teaching About Climate Change

Teaching about climate change can seem intimidating as teachers may question their own knowledge of this complex topic, or they might be reluctant to bring it up for fear of sparking climate anxiety in the children they teach. 

However, climate change is a topic that needs to be addressed in Irish schools as per the government’s Education for Sustainable development plan, ESD to 2030. Furthermore, the new Primary Curriculum Framework lists “Being an active citizen” as one of 7 Key Competencies which it aims to foster in the children. Education for Sustainable Development (including climate change education), is a key part of this. 

In terms of the fear of creating anxiety in the children we teach, research in psychology tells us that people are more likely to feel overwhelmed and to experience climate anxiety if they feel alone and helpless in their concerns (Climate Psychology Alliance, 2022). According to the Handbook of Climate Psychology, when climate change feels like the elephant in the room that no-one wants to talk about, a “socially constructed silence” is created that isolates us.

Creating a local climate in which the heat can be taken out of talking about climate change can counter isolation felt by students. As important is the sense of agency, the feeling that there are things you can do, feeling you have some power means that you are much less likely to feel overwhelmed by fear and despair. So it is imperative that we teach and talk about the issue of climate change in schools, and engage our students in positive action to increase their sense of efficacy. 

What resources are available?

The good news is that teachers do not have to be experts in this area or climate scientists! We don’t even have to create lesson plans or collect resources as there are a number of high-quality resource packs which have been created by NGOs and other agencies which are ready to use in classrooms. In this blog post, I will share some of these resources, as well as giving suggestions for picture books and where you can find further information. 

1. Green Schools Website

There is a wealth of lesson packs, worksheets and other resources relating to climate change on the Green Schools’ website. Because there are so many resources, it can be a little tricky to find what you need, so I recommend you use the search function. For children in the Junior end of primary, I would highly recommend their “Climate Action for Junior Primary Students” and the accompanying picture book “We Want Our Park Back”. 

2. Oxfam Global Learning in the Classroom

Oxfam have a number of excellent resources on their website, which you will find by entering “climate change” into their teaching resources search function. I’ll put a screen grab below showing some of the topics and resources that they have. 

3. TrĂłcaire Primary Resources

Trócaire have excellent explainer videos for children as well a photo pack, and lesson plans. 

4. GOAL Resources for Primary Schools

GOAL are currently updating their global citizenship education resources, and will soon have a new section on their website where they can be downloaded. I worked with GOAL in creating their new lesson plan resource for all class levels on the topic of sustainable food systems. It is called “Food for Good” and you can request a copy by emailing globalc@goal.ie. GOAL also visit schools to provide in person workshops. 

 

5. GIY’s Grow at School Teacher Resources

GIY have a number of excellent lesson plans with accompanying PowerPoint presentations which cover the topic of food and climate change. They are very user friendly. 

6. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) 

The SEAI have a range of lesson plans, PowerPoints, books, and resources for all class levels and they also offer free workshops in schools. 

7. Books for Children

There are hundreds of books out there for children on the topic of climate. Below I will recommend a few that I am familiar with. 

For children in the senior end, “Polar Bear, Why is Your World Melting?”, is excellent and it gives a very clear explanation of climate change. 

I have used “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss with the middle classes. It is a good book for helping to make children aware of the earth’s limited resources and the impact that human consumption has on the planet. 

“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is a good book to use for giving hope to children who feel like they have little power or influence in the face of such a massive global crisis. 

For junior classes, I would focus on fostering a love of nature and a curiosity about the natural world. Books such as “Our Planet” are good tools for this

Conclusion

I hope this post has been helpful and that it has given you a starting point from which you can begin teaching about climate change. If you know of any other good resources, please let me know in the comments and I can add them to this post!

I also offer a free webinar through the education centre network on the topic of “Teaching About Climate Change in The Primary School”. You can find out about my upcoming webinars by following me on Facebook and Instagram. If you are an education centre and would be interested in me facilitating such a webinar, please email claire@teachingplans.ie. Thank you!

References:

American Psychological Association/eco-America (2017). Mental health and our changing climate: impacts, implications, and guidance. APA.

Climate Psychology Alliance. (2022). Handbook of Climate Psychology. Retrieved from: https://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/images/files/handbookofclimatepsychology.pdf

Lawton, G. (2019). If we label eco-anxiety as an illness, climate denialists have won. New Scientist. Retrieved from: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24432512-900-if-we-label-eco-anxiety-as-an-illness-climate-denialists-have-won/

Marks, E., Hickman, C., Pihkala, P., Clayton., Lewandowski, E. R., Mayall, E. E., Wray, B., Mellor, C. and Van Susteren. L. (2021). Young People’s Voices on Climate Anxiety, Government Betrayal and Moral Injury: A Global Phenomenon. Retrieved from: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3918955

Shugarman, H. (2020). How to Talk to Your Kids about Climate Change. New Society Publishers.

 

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