Are you ready to meet the 'Climate Challenge?' Part 2
Whilst many people feel powerless and uncertain about how to tackle the current global issues, as educators, we must aim to give children a positive mindset.
Catch up on Part 1A: What is the ‘Climate Challenge’? here or Part 1B: The Climate Challenge and the Curricula here
How to teach the Climate Challenge
Children may believe that adults do not care enough about the Earth which they will soon inherit responsibility for looking after. This can lead to overwhelming feelings of sadness and a lack of hope: sometimes this is referred to as Eco-anxiety, but it can be reframed more positively as Eco-empathy.
Our job as teachers has always been to create nurturing and safe environments, where children can thrive. There is now an added dimension: to ensure that children have psychological safety, optimism and confidence to talk honestly about the challenges we are facing, and how they can make a positive difference in the world. To reduce eco-anxiety, the key messages of the Climate Psychology Alliance are to:
- Give children the information they need (age dependent) so they can start to understand what the global problems are.
- Give children time and space to process new information and have their feelings acknowledged. This will help build their empathy and emotional intelligence.
- Provide opportunities for the children to have agency through small positive actions.
Using the Climate Challenge activities will enable important conversations to take place and allow children to express their ideas and feelings. There is up-to-date, reliable information to support these discussions in each background science section. Every Climate Challenge activity has an extra section, titled Positive action, which signposts simple ideas for relevant actions that children can do to make a positive contribution to the planet. It is a good idea to read this section before the lesson so any resources can be prepared.
There are several types of Positive action:
Positive action 1 - Be a naturalist:
Taking small steps to improve the school grounds for nature will be part of the new English Science Curriculum in 2023 and children will be able to upload their data onto a virtual National Education Nature Park. Benefits for children will include learning hands-on skills and working outside. Collectively, their projects could be significant for British wildlife.
To be a naturalist, children could create a:
Image credit: Justin Smith via Canva
Positive action 2 - Spread the message:
Environmental issues can provide real-world contexts in English lessons where children learn to communicate with persuasion. Speaking and listening skills can be developed and a ‘relevant and meaningful’ (Ofsted report point 138) context should inspire their best quality writing. Tackling the complexity of environmental issues requires sensitivity and balance. As explained in recent Government guidance, the scientific evidence about climate change is not political. However, when considering what needs to be done, children should be taught to be fair and impartial. Advantages, disadvantages, and complications (such as misleading media coverage) can be discussed, and children should be encouraged to respectfully ask questions.
To spread the message, children could:
Prepare an assembly to present their research to the school community.
Write a persuasive, formal letter to someone who can make a difference.
Take part in national campaigns such as WWF’s Plate Placards.
Create useful resources to help others change their habits such as a seasonal food calendar (this BBC resource might help).
Create a video to share their message and post it on their class page.
Design eye-catching and informative posters or leaflets and think about distributing them impactfully.
Positive action 3 - Make a pledge:
Children learn about community and responsibility in PSHE. They can link this to making a promise to change their own behaviour, such as:
As well as making an individual pledge, you might be able to get involved with a whole school plan or project. Some of these options require registration, some work towards an eco-status or award:
Positive action 4 - Show empathy for climate justice:
All schools strive to develop children’s understanding and empathy of those around them and this helps build a respectful and caring culture. Extending this empathy to people across the planet requires a deliberate yet careful approach. For example, extreme weather (floods, wildfires, droughts, tropical storms) is one of the results of climate change. It is often the poorest countries who are experiencing these effects the most. Meanwhile, it is often the richer countries who continue to contribute most to the build-up of greenhouse gases. This short BBC film could introduce this idea to older primary children and help them build their empathy for others.
To help others, children could:
Positive action 5 - Enjoy an eco-friendly wellbeing boost:
Improve your wellbeing by being creative or making the most of nature both inside and outside.
Children will enjoy opportunities to:
Image credits: Monkey Business Images by Canva
To read the Welsh translation of this blog, click here.
Click here to learn all about how to plan a lesson around the climate challenge!