Telling a classroom full of 12-year-olds that a polar bear lost its home today is probably not a fun task. Try telling them that with sea-levels and extreme weather on the rise, they might be homeless someday as well. It’s tough news to break, but since the scientific community reached a consensus on climate change, science teachers have been trying to work it into their curricula. In addition to pedagogical questions, these teachers have to deal with the wrath of climate change deniers, writes Edward Humes for Sierra (September/October 2012).
According to a poll by the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, eight in ten teachers have faced climate-change skepticism from parents or school administrators. In Tennessee, teachers are encouraged to teach the “scientific strengths and weaknesses” of global warming, giving voice to a controversy that does not actually exist. And in San Mateo County, California, parents accused a teacher of brainwashing students with An Inconvenient Truth. Signed permission slips are now required for classroom screenings of the documentary.
But science teachers have a couple of influential allies. The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network offers peer-reviewed lesson plans focused on scientific research, and Next Generation Science Standards has proposed climate change be added to its voluntary national standards.