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Empowering Youngest Learners in a Warming World

A K-2 Climate Change Inquiry Guide

Elementary

Description

Empowering the Youngest Learners in a Warming World K-2 was developed to support teachers in approaching climate change in an age-appropriate way with young students. This resource is a comprehensive guide to climate change education with five different chapters. Each chapter below consists of 3-4 guided inquiries to help bring climate change learning to your young learners.

Each inquiry theme below will begin by presenting background information for teachers about the specific subject matter concerning climate change and give an overview of the associated risks and trends. This guide provides educators with a blend of quality content (resources, videos, books, websites and ideas) and exemplary pedagogy to guide students through an inquiry-driven approach to climate change learning.

Chapter 1 – What is Climate Change and Why Care? - Students will explore and learn about the differences between weather and climate and understand the basic scientific principles of climate change through books, videos and interpretations of an infographic. 

Chapter 2 – How Does Climate Change Affect Our World? - These inquiries delve deeper into the multifaceted environmental effects of climate change. Students harness their curiosity of the local environment by examining changes to systems and through systems thinking, specifically ecosystems, biodiversity and habitat loss.

Chapter 3 – How Does Addressing Climate Change Make Us Healthier? - This collection of inquiries explores sensitive material by examining the connection between climate change and many facets of human health. This inquiry includes resources, activities and information to inform educators of the serious and widespread effects of climate impacts on physical and mental health.

Chapter 4 – It’s Easy Being Green - These inquiries explore green energy, the difference between needs and wants, and the importance of becoming a climate champion.

Chapter 5 – Indigenous Ways of Knowing - These three inquiries look at how Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, skills and practices, passed down from generation to generation, play a vital role in understanding climate action.

Each inquiry structure includes: 

  • A series of potential provocations to invoke discussion, questions, interests and ideas among your students
  • Suggested strategies to generate questions
  • Understanding and mental health check-ins with students  
  • Ideas to build knowledge
  • Methods to consolidate information
  • Stand-alone activities that teachers may want to integrate to ensure that students learn foundational concepts of climate change in a section called Pursuing Learning
  • Ultimately support students to engage in action for the purpose of mitigation and adaptation

Woven throughout each inquiry are lists of possible resources (including books and videos) and hands-on activities to pursue learning. 

General Assessment

Strengths

The inquiries include several suggestions so that every kind of learner will find ideas, questions and activities to explore based on their unique and diverse community characteristics and circumstances, inspiring learning that ultimately leads to action. Each chapter provides teachers with critical background information on the topics covered and the student content is offered in a variety of formats that are both interesting, effective and age appropriate.  

The inquiry methodology adopted by the Guide take students in each of the inquiries through a process that starts by hooking students with provocative questions and ends with student action both inside and outside the school. To get there, students engage in many activities that make them active participants in the learning process. 

The resource provides additional resources such as curricular connections for each chapter and an Active Learning Strategies Resource Bank. Throughout the guide you will notice that there are several active learning instructional startegies that have been woven into each inquriy. If clarification or further explanation is needed access the Active Learning Strategies Resource Bank for more details and instructions for implementation.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

Each chapter provides curriculum connections for Science, Language, Social Studies, Physical Education and Health, Visual Arts and Mathematics. The resource provides easy to use pre-learning activities and principles for climate change discussions.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Kindergarten
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      • Math
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        • Number: Quantity is measured with numbers that enable counting, labelling, comparing, and operating
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Active Living: A healthy way of life includes regular practice of meaningful active livin
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        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
    • Grade 1
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        • Number: Quantity is measured with numbers that enable counting, labelling, comparing, and operatin
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Active Living: A healthy way of life includes regular practice of meaningful active living
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
        • Investigating change and the diversity of Earth’s systems helps us to develop understandings of the conditions necessary to sustain life
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      • Math
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        • Number: Quantity is measured with numbers that enable counting, labelling, comparing, and operating.
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Active Living: A healthy way of life includes regular practice of meaningful active living
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Earth Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions.
        • Exploring connections strengthens our understandings of relationships to help us make meaning of the world.
        • Living Systems: Understandings of the living world, Earth, and space are deepened through investigating natural systems and their interactions
  • British Columbia
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    • Kindergarten
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      • Math
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        • Numbers represent quantities that can be decomposed into smaller parts.
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Physical and Health Education: Daily physical activity helps us develop movement skills and physical literacy, and is an important part of healthy living
        • Physical and Health Education: Good health comprises physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
      • Science
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        • Science: Daily and seasonal changes affect all living things.
    • Grade 1
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      • Math
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        • Addition and subtraction with numbers to 10 can be modelled concretely, pictorially, and symbolically to develop computational fluency
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Physical and Health Education: Good health comprises physical, mental, and emotional well-being
      • Social Studies
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        • Local Communities:: We shape the local environment, and the local environment shapes who we are and how we live.
    • Grade 2
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      • Math
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Numbers to 100 represent quantities that can be decomposed into 10s and 1s
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Physical and Health Education: Our physical, emotional, and mental health are interconnected
      • Social Studies
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        • Regional and Global Communities: Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences.
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
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    • Kindergarten
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      • Math
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        • Number: Develop Number Sense
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        • You and Your World: Place and Community
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        • You and Your World:Place and Community
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      • Math
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        • Number
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        • You and Your World: Our Environment
      • Social Studies
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        • You and Your World: Our Environment
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        • Number
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
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        • Number
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        • Exploring My World: Observing Local Weather
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        • Place
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        • Environments
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        • The World and Me
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        • Earth and Space Systems: Daily and Seasonal Cycles
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        • Connecting and Belonging: My Environment
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        • Earth and Space Systems: Air and Water in the Environment
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        • Communities in Canada: Our Local Community
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        • Science 1:Daily & Seasonal Change
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        • Mathematics 2: Number
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        • Being Together: The Land: Place & People
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        • Number
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        • Physical Education and Health: Movement
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        • Earth and Space Systems: Daily and Seasonal Cycles
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        • Connecting and Belonging: The Land: Place & People
    • Grade 2
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      • Math
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        • Number
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Physical Education and Health: Movement
      • Science
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        • Earth and Space Systems: Air and Water in the Environment
      • Social Studies
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        • Communities in Canada: The Land: Place & People
  • Ontario
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        • Early Numeracy
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        • Units/ Outcomes
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        • Interactions: Environments
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        • Change: Environment
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    • Grade 1
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      • Math
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        • Arithmetic
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        • Physical Education and Health: To Adopt a Healthy, Active Lifestyle
      • Science & Technology
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        • Earth and Space
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      • Social Studies
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        • To construct his/her representation of space, time and society
    • Grade 2
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      • Math
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        • Arithmetic
      • Physical Education & Health
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        • Physical Education and Health: To Adopt a Healthy, Active Lifestyle
      • Science & Technology
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        • Earth and Space
        • Living things
  • Saskatchewan
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    • Kindergarten
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      • Math
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        • Number
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        • Units & Outcomes
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        • Units & Outcomes
    • Grade 1
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Daily and Seasonal Changes
    • Grade 2
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Math
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Number
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Air and Water in the Environment
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Kindergarten
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Math
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Numbers represent quantities that can be decomposed into smaller parts.
      • Physical Education & Health
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Physical and Health Education: Good health comprises physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science: Daily and seasonal changes affect all living things.
    • Grade 1
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Math
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Addition and subtraction with numbers to 10 can be modelled concretely, pictorially, and symbolically to develop computational fluency
      • Physical Education & Health
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Physical and Health Education: Good health comprises physical, mental, and emotional well-being
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 1: Living things have features and behaviours that help them survive in their environment
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Local Communities:: We shape the local environment, and the local environment shapes who we are and how we live.
    • Grade 2
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Math
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Numbers to 100 represent quantities that can be decomposed into 10s and 1s
      • Physical Education & Health
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Physical and Health Education: Adopting healthy personal practices and safety strategies protects ourselves and others
        • Physical and Health Education: Our physical, emotional, and mental health are interconnected
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Regional and Global Communities: Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences.

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Ecosystems (3)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Biodiversity
    • Habitat Loss
  • Energy (1)

    • Alternative Energy
  • Food & Agriculture (1)

    • Food Security
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
  • Indigenous Knowledge (1)

    • TEK -- Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Waste Management (1)

    • Solid Waste Disposal

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The learning takes place using an inquiry model. The students consider different ways of looking at issues and reaching solutions by generating their own questions. They are forming opinions, clarifying values and taking an informed position driven by student-generated questions.

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 Good

Climate Change affects students socially, emotionally and environmentally. As students investigate how a warming climate affects the natural world, they also examine interrelationships between environmental health and global quality of life. Our understanding of climate change and its impacts requires an understanding of multiple related systems (from the physical environment, to ecosystems, to human society) that transcend traditional subject boundaries. The nature of this complex problem requires deep learning which not only expands students’ knowledge and understanding about climate change but also touches their values, sense of place, feelings of responsibility, and capacities to enact change. 

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 Very Good

The scope of the resource is ambitious because the subject is complex. It aims to expand in an age-appropriate manner not only student knowledge and understanding of climate change but also to have them consider how climate change relates to their values, their sense of place, their feelings of responsibility, and their capacity to enact change.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Very Good

The Guide believes that allowing time for students to take action is an essential part of the learning process on climate change, as it empowers students and eases their eco-anxiety. Accordingly, each of the Inquiries concludes with Take Action, wherein students find ideas for taking action and examples of action projects undertaken by their peers in other schools. 

The Guide also includes hyperlinks to other sites such as Our Canada Project, where students may find inspiration and support for taking action.

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 Very Good

Throughout the resource students learn that cumulative small changes can result in significant global change. The resource emphasizes open dialogue with a focus on identifying personal emotional responses to climate change and communicating individual thoughts and opinions.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Very Good

This inquiry looks at how Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, skills and practices, passed down from generation to generation, play a vital role in understanding climate action. Indigenous peoples have been, and are leaders, of climate action; their roles in monitoring climate change impacts and the environmental effects on their traditional lands and waters play a critical part in our fight against climate change. There is a great deal that we can learn from how Indigenous peoples have lived sustainably with the Land for countless generations. Incorporating diverse perspectives and sources of knowledge, such as Indigenous Knowledge Systems, are also imperative for effective adaptation.

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 Very Good

The resource provides many learning locally opportunities where the community becomes the classroom and learning is grounded in experiences right outside the school door, involving the natural, built and cultural environments.

This may take the form of neighborhood walks, educating their community about the risks posed by climate change, conducting a school waste audit, inviting municipal leaders into the classroom,  planting trees or restoring a local habitat.

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 Very Good

Each of the Inquiries asks students to examine or investigate their local community in terms of the issue being addressed. This may take the form of neighborhood walks, educating their community about the risks posed by climate change, conducting a school waste audit, inviting Elders into the classroom, planting trees or cleaning up a local habitat.

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 Good

Chapter Five explores how Indigenous peoples have lived sustainably with the Land for countless generations. We need to listen carefully to better understand how Traditional knowledge, and its application, contribute to environmental sustainability and planning for the future. The resources suggested in the inquiries provide examples of how Indigenous People live in relationship with the natural world.

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 Very Good

The inquiry learning model adopted by the resource means that questions, not answers drive the study and that students contribute to determining what questions are asked. The teacher's role is that of facilitator and the role of the resource is to provide students with information and activities that enable students to develop their perspective on the issue and to  recognize the perspective of others.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Very Good

The guide provides opportunities to bring together content and skills from more than one subject area. Each chapter provides curricular connections.

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 Very Good

This guide follows the guiding principles of inquiry learning. Its purpose is to present opportunities to evolve students’ understanding of the climate and climate change, assess the risks and opportunities to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate, unpack ethical dimensions, and honour emotions that are part of the process of coming to understand the complexity and urgency of the issue. Lastly and most importantly, this guide aims to engage students in contributing to solutions in their schools, communities and homes. The guide connects educators to:  instructional strategies that allow for students’ perspectives and voice, currently available climate change science and research, teacher resources and activities.

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 Very Good

The guide includes several differentiated instruction suggestions so that every kind of learner will find ideas, questions and activities to explore based on their unique and diverse community characteristics and circumstances, inspiring learning that ultimately leads to action.

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 Very Good

The Guide includes numerous opportunities for students to take their learning outside the classroom. This includes neighbourhood walks to study the impact of climate change at the local level, outdoor activities such as Maple Trees and Marmots, an activity that explores the effects of climate change on animals and plants through role-playing games. This activity allows students to understand how climate change may affect plants and animals. Another game Lynx and Hare introduces the concept of predator and prey relationships and how their adaptations can be affected by climate change. Teachers are encouraged to invite community experts, Elders and Knowledge Keepers into the clasroom to enhance the 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 Very Good

In addition to the cooperative learning strategies such as Carousel  Brainstorming and Knowledge Building Circles, the resource includes many Take Action suggestions that outline suggestions for students to work with the community.

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 Very Good

Each of the Inquiries includes suggested assessment strategies. The Consolidation segment, which is also found in each Inquiry would also provide teachers with opportunities to assess student understanding, as would the Determining Understanding segment. 

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 Very Good

The Take action suggestions provide opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and learning to other students, community members, parents.

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 Good

The background information for teachers provides links to relevant and current information about climate change.

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 Very Good

The Question Generation segment of each inquiry helps teachers determine where students are in their initial understanding of a topic or an issue, then continues to evaluate their understanding throughout the learning process. The Determining Understanding segment enables students to pause and reflect on their learning, taking ownership of the process and practicing metacognitive strategies. By generating their own questions students participate in their program content.

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.