Why this guide?
Conventional teaching, based on information transfer and finding the “right” answers, does not align well with the complexity of climate change or the evolving nature of the field. With the internet at their fingertips, students have access to more information than anyone could ever process. Students don’t need to be told what to do, they need to be engaged in active problem-solving because climate solutions are nuanced and specific to regional realities.
Transformative teaching strategies like inquiry are better suited to tackling complex problems like climate change. These strategies often begin with the understanding and experiences that students bring with them. Educators, who themselves are grappling with climate change issues, take the role of facilitators and guide learners as the class works together to learn, critically reflect, and take action. In class learning is brought into context with the real world, allowing learners to cultivate creativity and innovation as they encounter real-life complexities. Students develop the attitudes and skill sets necessary to address challenges to which we don’t yet have the right answers, which are the same skills they need to be successful in work and daily life.
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, datasets, and action solutions.
This guide provides educators with a blend of quality content (resources, websites, books, videos and ideas) and exemplary pedagogy to guide you through an inquiry-driven approach to climate change learning. It draws upon seven key strategies that transform learning described in LSF’s Connecting the Dots:
- Learning Locally: where the community becomes the classroom and learning is grounded in experiences right outside the school door, involving the natural, built and cultural environments
- Integrated Learning: that crosses subject lines and skills and allows for the development of deep understanding that includes environmental, social and economic dimensions
- Acting on Learning: that acknowledges the need in learners to apply what they have learned to enhance the community and the learning experience itself
- Real-World Connections: that make learning authentic through sourcing information, communicating to audiences and working with community partners
- Considering Alternative Perspectives: that purposely presents differing views requiring critical thinking
- Inquiry: where learning follows what the student needs to know and results in the “uncovering” of curriculum through the skillful facilitation by the teacher
- Sharing Responsibility for Learning with Students: that leads to able, independent learners.
The information and resources presented in this guide are introduced with the teaching methodology of inquiry in mind. Inquiry-based learning, as cited by Kozak & Elliott “is most consistent with the development of skills for lifelong learning. It prepares students to know what to do when the options before them are unclear.”
Inquiry learning can be defined as:
an approach to learning that is directed by questions, problems, a hypothesis or a challenge that individuals and groups of learners work together to address. At it’s best the learning is driven by student generated questions. Students, assisted by the teacher, clarify the questions being asked and determine how to answer them. As knowledge is pursued, unplanned but important learning territory is often uncovered. (Kozak & Elliott).
A Structure of Inquiry Learning:
Inquiry creates a learning environment where students can develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The learning that takes place throughout an inquiry, stemming from students’ questions, is authentic and meaningful. The ideal goal of an inquiry is to apply learning and take action.
Stages of the Inquiry Process:
An initial provocation, also sometimes referred to as a “hook,” is used to spark interest and curiosity.. “Experiences that spark students’ interest and elicit genuine ‘I wonders’ can set a course for authentic and sustained Knowledge Building.” (Knowledge Building Gallery).
Teachers should determine where students are in their initial understanding of a topic or an issue, then continue to evaluate their understanding throughout the learning process. Learners should be checking in with their understanding and determining direction and next steps based on their understanding. In order to continue to generate meaningful questions as knowledge and understanding advances, students should list, refine, re-state, clarify, and prioritize their questions.
Determining understanding is an important step in the inquiry process used to gauge student understanding of new material, topics, and big ideas. Through an activity or assessment tool, teachers aim to assess student understanding and determine any questions or confusion that they may have. This information can help teachers to plan and to tailor the classroom activities to answer these questions and advance each student’s learning process. Determining understanding enables students to pause and reflect on their learning, taking ownership of the process and practicing metacognitive strategies. This type of reflection relies on self-assessment/self-monitoring behaviours and practicing the development of internal monitoring processes.
Knowledge building refers to a process of advancing and developing knowledge on a given subject. The goal is to further individual knowledge as a result of group discussions, common goals, and synthesis of ideas. According to Scardamalia and Bereiter, “Collaboration, determined by the ability of a group to function as a community of learners, is recognized as important in constructivist learning through knowledge building.” Learners work together through interactive questioning and continuously improving upon one another’s ideas.”
Pursuing learning in the context of this guide refers to a process in which teachers help support students in the pursuit of knowledge, skills, perspectives and questions related to the topic being explored.
Throughout the inquiry learning process, often many different ideas are explored, and a critical step is formulating and extending learning. This stage of the process often occurs near the end of the learning process in order to synthesize, review, and consider how the knowledge and learning will be applied to action.
In order to provide a comprehensive guide to climate change education, we inquiries that are structured to follow the inquiry process:
- Inquiry 1. What is climate change and why care?
- Inquiry 2. Climate change: where are we now?
- Inquiry 3. Monitoring change: an extension using the Climate Atlas of Canada
- Inquiry 4. Environmental impacts & restoration
- Inquiry 5. Human health: Addressing climate change makes us healthier
- Inquiry 6. A low carbon future: Economic transitions, risks and impacts
- Inquiry 7. Climate action and decolonization: Indigenous perspectives
- Inquiry 8. Ethical dimensions for children, youth, and livable futures
- Inquiry 9: Youth Agency
Each inquiry will begin by presenting background information and provide an overview of the associated risks and trends. Each inquiry will include a series of potential provocations to invoke discussion, questions, interests and ideas among your students. This is followed by suggested strategies to generate questions, build knowledge, and ultimately engage in action for the purpose of mitigation and adaptation. We have also included a section within each inquiry called Pursuing Learning; this section links to stand-alone activities that teachers may want to integrate to ensure that students learn foundational concepts of climate change. Woven throughout each inquiry are lists of possible resources (including books and videos), and hands-on activities to pursue learning. Inquiries 1-8 are designed to stand alone, addressing different angles and lenses through which climate change can be explored. We do recommend beginning your journey through the guide with Inquiry 1. What is Climate Change and Why Care? This inquiry provides a good introduction to climate change and allows students to begin by thinking about the importance of this issue in their own lives and future.
Throughout this guide you will notice that we have identified several active learning instructional strategies that have been woven into each inquiry. If clarification on these strategies or further explanation is needed, you will be able to locate them in the Active Learning Strategies Resource Bank, where you will find a description, and a link to instructions for implementation.