By Kirsty Costa, CERES
As the floods raced through Queensland and then Victoria over the Summer holidays, the topic of climate change was once again raised both in the news and dinner table conversations around the Australia. My cousin and her children, who now live in Brisbane, were thankfully in Melbourne at the time of the Queensland floods. During the discussion about returning home, her 10 year-old daughter remarked, “There is no point going home if climate change means this will happen all over again!”. Her comment has prompted me to write this article.
The delicate ‘nature’ (excuse the pun) of the facts around climate change means that sometimes, as adults, we tiptoe around the topic when talking to children. The reality, however, is that most school aged children and teenagers know that ‘climate change’ exists and many worry about it. They’ve seen it on the news, read it on the Internet or heard in adult discussions. In 2005, a survey conducted by the UK Government found that 24% of the one thousand 10 to 18 year olds questioned believed climate change presented the greatest threat to the world’s future (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/4123884.stm). The results are no different in Australia. In 2007, an Australian Childhood Foundation survey found more than half of 10- to 14-year-olds surveyed were worried about not having enough water and 44 per cent were nervous about the future impact of climate change(www.childhood.org.au/Assets/Files/6743207a-22eb-485d-bd08-cbea46b22a07.pdf).
Talking about climate change can make us all want to go and crawl under a table. So how do we support young people and their concerns about the future? The Victorian Government’s ‘Better Health Channel’ website has a page on ‘Climate Change’. The page states, “It is important to talk about issues such as climate change with your child and help them find ways to deal with their fears”. Based on this website’s recommendations, here are some ideas about how to talk about climate change in the classroom using the e5 model:
Engage — Listen to your students and take their concerns seriously. Find out what they know and how they know it.
Explore — Provide positive, realistic information sources for students to learn more about climate change (see below for starters).
Explain – Talk about the issues in a way that is appropriate to the students’ level understanding. Check that they haven’t jumped to any wrong conclusions. If you try to protect them by keeping information from them, they may fill in the blanks using their imagination.
Elaborate — Plan simple, positive actions that you can take together to make a difference.
Evaluate — How have students, the school and the community helped to stop climate change with different actions? How can they continue to do so?
There may be a chance that you don’t understand climate change properly yourself. Who could blame you! It’s a difficult thing to get your head around and there seem to be many opposing opinions! We hope the below resources support you and your students in your understanding of the topic.
Better Health Channel, ‘Climate Change – What You Can Do’
Australian Psychological Society, ‘Talking With Children About the Environment’ Tip Sheet
Eschool Today, ‘Let’s Learn Why the Earth’s Climate is Changing’
State Library of Victoria, Tim Flannery talks to secondary students about climate change
Climate Change Matters, ‘What’s climate change got to do with me?’ Years 7/8 learning unit
Australian Museum, ‘Climate Change: Our Future, Our Choice’ Teacher Notes
EPA Victoria – Ecological Footprint: Personal Calculator
Australian Youth Climate Coalition: Switched on Schools Program
Children in a Changing Climate
FutureShots Film Challenge For Young Victorians – 2011 Shortlisted Films (watch ‘Control Your Carbon Dioxides’)
Global Warming for Young Minds
Climate Change Education
‘How We Know What We Know about Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming’ by Lyn Cherry
‘We Are the Weather Makers’ (Young Readers Edition) by Tim Flannery
‘Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming’ by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon
‘Our Choice’ (Young Readers Edition) by Al Gore
‘A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids: Understanding Climate Change and What You Can Do About It’ by Julie Hall
‘The New 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth’ by Sophie Javna
‘This Is My Planet: The Kids’ Guide to Global Warming’ by Jane Thornhill
The ‘Little Green Books’ range for young readershttp://simonlittlegreen.com/
Type ‘Climate Change Kids’ into Amazon.com and you’ll find plenty more options!