How to Teach Children About Climate Change
July 19, 2019
As an adult, it may be difficult for you to make it through just a single day without hearing something about climate change. Whether you see an image of a starving polar bear online, watch a report about an eroded beach covered with plastic debris or hear a newscast detailing rising temperatures on the radio, evidence that our global climate is changing — and changing fast — is hard to escape.
Like you, your kids or young students probably hear about climate change at least occasionally. Whereas you might compartmentalize your feelings about our shared changing climate, so they don’t overwhelm you, children may not have the same coping skills. To prevent them from being scared of climate change and its short- and long-term effects, it’s vital for you to learn how to teach kids about climate change and how they can make a difference.
Explain the Difference Between Weather and Climate
If you’re going to teach children about climate change, you should start by explaining what climate is. You can compare the weather to climate and explain how the two differ to make it digestible for kids.
Weather happens at a local level and consists of temporary events, such as rain showers and periods of sunshine, that pass through an area. Climate refers to weather conditions present in a larger region over a longer period of time. Whereas weather is discussed in the context of a city over several days or weeks, climate refers to conditions experienced in a state, country or continent over years, decades or centuries.
Provide an Explanation of Climate Change
Once kids have an understanding of what climate is, you can explain climate change. Tell your young audience members that climate change is a relatively new phenomenon that humans — including your listeners — largely have the power to control at least on an individual level.
Scientific evidence supports the position that greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming. While these gases have always been present in the atmosphere, their presence has greatly increased since the Industrial Revolution, a time when using powered machines became the norm.
In the years since, human activities have increased the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere at a rate that’s too fast for the environment to absorb. As a result, a blanket of sorts has formed around the globe. When the sun’s heat enters the earth’s atmosphere, it causes the temperature to rise. Because the blanket doesn’t allow the resulting heat to escape the atmosphere like it used to, the planet’s temperate rises across the board.
The earth’s rising temperature is referred to as “global warming.” Global warming is the primary driver of climate change.
Identify Things Kids Can Do About Climate Change
If you type “how to teach children about climate change” into a search bar, you may come across material that details the horrifying effects of climate change. Even when discussed in the context of future generations or decades or centuries down the line, those effects can terrify young children who aren’t able to separate their present from the distant future.
Rather than scare your audience, you should identify some things kids can do about climate change, including:
- Reuse, repurpose and recycle: Reusing, repurposing and recycling consume less energy than producing new goods, which reduces the number of greenhouse gases getting released into the atmosphere.
- Walk or ride a bike: Taken together, fuel-consuming forms of transportation are the leading emitters of greenhouse gases. By walking or riding a bike for one mile every day, a single child can prevent 330 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the environment.
- Eat locally sourced, seasonal food: Fruits and vegetables grown out of season and/or out of state require more energy to grow and transport to selling points. By eating locally sourced, seasonal food, kids can reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted into the atmosphere.
Don’t Go It Alone
Whether you want to admit it or not, climate change is something that will impact the lives of today’s and tomorrow’s children throughout their lives. While you may want to “protect” kids from climate change and its effects, the only way to do that is to educate children about climate change and what they can do about it.
Enrolling kids between 4-11 in the summer science camps and after-school science clubs hosted by Science Explorers is a great way to teach children about climate change and help them evolve into responsible stewards of the environment in their teen and adult years. To learn more about our fun-filled, educational science programs, contact Science Explorers now!