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Climate Change

Middle, Secondary


Students learn more about each other through sharing personal experiences, knowledge and feelings concerning climate change. Students watch a short video showing why climate change education is important to shape sustainable development and how it works in practice.

In order to move the discussion from the abstract to the more concrete and personal, students engage in a classroom climate change people search in which they identify examples of the impact climate change is having on classmates.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The interchange among students and the follow-up may help students identify patterns and common elements in analyzing survey results.  


The lesson has a very limited value - to start a conversation among students about climate change. 


The lesson does not have many of the elements that are found in strong resources but this is in part because its goals are quite limited.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The lesson may serve as an introduction to a study of climate change. Given this limited role, teachers should look to other resources to help students gain a better understanding about the facts regarding the causes and consequences of climate change.

The authors recommend the lesson for 8-14 year old's. It should work with 14 years old's but not 8- year- old students

Relevant Curriculum Units

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Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

A segment of the lesson has students move around the classroom to discuss with others various issues related to their understanding of  climate change. Student answers are recorded and these serve as a basis for group discussion. The exercise is likely to reveal a variety of opinions on the issue of climate change and range of knowledge about the issue.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory

The questions provided to students to encourage an exchange on climate change may be expected to initiate discussion on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of  climate change. The responsibility to have students recognize these categories and the interplay among them will rest with the teacher.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The teacher is provided with possible questions to guide the group discussion period following the individual exchanges among students and these offer an opportunity for the teacher to have students recognize the complexity of the issue and to raise questions that may lead to further investigation of the many factors at play in terms of the causes and effects of climate change.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The People Search activity in which students "interview" each other about their understanding of climate change does allow for some discussion of what individuals might do to meet the challenge of climate change and the segment Learning to Address Climate Change includes a video which shows how education can help us understand the causes of climate change. It also gives examples of how teachers and students can get active and address the challenges of climate change.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

There are opportunities in the lesson for teachers to use the guided question period and the post - mortem to have students consider the ethical implications with respect to responsibility for causing climate  change and addressing the consequences of those changes. 

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

The lesson includes a short video, Learning to Address Climate Change, which among other things draws attention to the impact of climate change on the people of the developing world, noting that although they are least responsible for climate change, they may be expected to bear a disproportionate share of the ill effects of climate change. 

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

The lesson does raise awareness of the impact of climate change on the natural world and this raised awareness may heighten the students appreciation of that world. 

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The activity, Climate Change People Search provides students with a list of questions that are used to guide student discussion of climate change. A number of these questions focus on the individual and community experience with climate change.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

The guided student discussion on climate change includes a number of questions that ask students to consider the future in terms of the impact of climate change.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The goal of the lesson is to have students begin a conversation about climate change. The guided in-class discussion is intended to begin that discussion rather than offer a particular narrative about the issue. The accompanying video emphasizes the need to learn about climate change so that our choices may be best informed by that knowledge.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

The introductory nature of the lesson means that the issues raised by a study of climate change are not explored therein but would require other lessons or resources to help students make the link to various subject areas.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

The core of the lesson is a guided discussion among students that is intended to begin a investigation about climate change. This is a very preliminary and limited goal. Issues are raised but not pursued in any depth of inquiry.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

The lesson consists of two elements, guided discussion among students and the viewing of a video. An alternative video is provided but it is aimed at a different age group and is of little value.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Poor/Not considered

The introductory nature of the lesson precludes any activities that would be described as experiential learning. It may, however, set the stage for further study that would include elements of experiential learning.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

The guided "conversation" among students allows those students to hear what their classmates think about various issues related to climate change but at this stage it only represents a sharing of opinions or impressions.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

The lesson allows only for a degree of formative evaluation. Teachers will gain an appreciation about the level of understanding students have about climate change and perhaps this is all that is intended in that it gives teachers a sense of direction in formulating follow-up lessons.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered

The lessons provides a context in which students talk to each other about climate change but this does not raise to the level of peer teaching.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

The video portion of the lesson includes a short piece on the impact of climate change of a representative developing world country.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered

This is quite a structured lesson, intended only to introduce students to the issue of climate change but may if the issue is pursues in greater depth, allow students some input into what aspects of climate change they might wish to investigate.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.