“I’m often asked whether I believe in global warming. I now just reply to the question, do you believe in gravity?”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
While playing a game of “Who can teach climate science better?” Kim won and I lost. It wasn’t a game we were playing for fun, or even knew we were playing at the time. As you’ll find by the end of this Adventure, just like every part of our long friendship, Kim’s sense of what’s right, good, and works will win just about any game. Her loyalty to helping students and teachers may not be free (it is the free download this time), yet her inspiration is priceless. In return, please take our resources and teach climate science. Win, lose, or draw.
Resources in order through this SPECTRUM Acrostic
I can’t speak for Kim, but I’m going to save the world by bringing students to STEM so they choose STEM careers and save us from ourselves. At the very least, I intend on cultivating millions of scientifically-literate citizens. As an 8th grade science teacher for an impacted middle school in the DC area, I try to do this by building student-centered opportunities but sometimes I wonder who is teaching who. We’ll get to issues around student engagement, formative checks, and restorative justice later. Right now, and I mean right now, we must talk about and teach climate change in the context of dynamic interactions of the atmosphere and biosphere. Global warming might be depressing, but it’s the most valuable lesson I’ve taught this year (and I lost!). Sure, it may be challenging from a student resistance, overload of information, or in my case, a data interpretation standpoint, but it was also the most rewarding process in spite of that. So… I won?
The metrics of success around teaching climate change are tricky. Progress means different things to different people. Is progress really measured by the amount of buildings we build or, ideally, forests we save? What about student progress while teaching climate change? It’s a depressing yet oddly rewarding process. Yet, what EXACTLY equals success when teaching climate science? This year, it’s the fact that we actually taught it at all, using graphs and charts. I thought, as a colleague recently counseled me,”done is enough.” Until I saw what Kim developed for her lesson.
Who is Kim, anyway? Good question. She just came out of nowhere one day early in my work at Space Center Houston ten years ago. If you’re lucky enough to know someone like Kim, you understand how loyalty and honesty, let alone sheer strength, can and will transform your life forever.
Her loyalty to me came before our friendship it seems. One day she just introduced herself to me, in between space classes for NASA’s many visiting groups, and that was it. Our work soon moved to Rice University’s aggressive curriculum building projects, and now finally to the classroom- hers in MA, mine in MD.
To say we have similar interests is redundant at best. While I was teaching international space school, she was running space day camps. While I was writing Biology curriculum, she was running its teacher feedback programs. While I was reading David Quammen’s Song of the Dodo, Kim was reading The Sixth Extinction. She’s the first person I called, yelling from a literal mountaintop, when I successfully defended my thesis in interactive reading passage development. We are the virtual Cagney and Lacey of curriculum development, the Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy of science education, the Grace and Frankie of STEM.
You’re almost caught up. There’s one last thing you need to know about Kim and I. We may be friendly, but we are fierce competitors. Well, she’s more competitive than I am, so she wins that one, too. She may empower you more than any other human (because apparently she’s also the best at that), but she will also win any game placed in front of her, including out-teaching you. This year, it was 7th grade science using IQWST for her, and 8th grade science using a homespun curriculum for me (we had to skip climate change last year, so the playing field is level). Both in early NGSS-adoption states, we didn’t need to worry about whether we could teach climate change, but when and how we would teach it. Without planning it, our schedules synched up for the Weather and Climate units. Let the games begin.
Since my school had to abandon the climate change lesson last year during an already train wreck unit on Weather and Climate, I thought just teaching it at all was a win. Over the summer, we committed to not repeating this mistake and overhauled major portions of our calendar to allow for the lesson this year. Every curriculum improvement – from streamlining paper-usage and differentiating with scaffolds, enhancing language with less complexity and more relevance, and increasing culturally-proficiency and real-world scenarios with multimedia and literacy – was an effort to assure four valuable days of the climate science. Our storyline reflected the conceptual flow of a scientist launching a rocket to explore not only our solar system, but also using extensive satellite imagery to inspect our own planet. I even made a word wall! Aren’t these strides in getting the Weather and Climate unit JUST TO par enough? Nope.
Behind the scenes work is great, but to effectively teach climate change, you’re going to need much more than a more organized curriculum. The data, graphs, or even aiching stories of losses in biodiversity help, but you’re going to need even more than that. You’re going to need literacy strategies and cooperative learning opportunities like PBL. I will never teach climate science again without this valuable group learning approach… and a hell of a lot more practice teaching graph interpretation.
This is a commercial break for an upcoming Adventure to”Invent the Future.” I’m fortunate enough to run the school’s first-time involvement with Kid Museum and the county. Together with 30 students from under-represented populations in STEM, we are bringing our inventions to “protect life on Earth” and showcase prototypes, journals, and amazing “Orange Team” collaborative spirit with all 40 middle schools in a Challenge Summit soon. Stay tuned!
Back to the classroom and my hardest lesson in teaching yet. I tried to teach data interpretation and teach it equitably. I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time teaching and learning about equity in itself. Our school is transforming to a restorative justice school and experiencing growth pains. Restorative Justice helps give all people a voice without holding anyone accountable. In my experience, it’s helped in some regards yet has lead to many unintended consequences, especially in perceptions of race and equitable teaching practices.
OBSERVATIONS AND LESSONS LEARNED FROM RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
NEVER LOSE YOUR ALLIES
BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
“We must ignore student apathy and ‘shove the science down their unwilling throats.’
THEME OF LISTENING TO SCIENTIST WARNINGS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
I also stumbled onto one of the larger stumbling blocks I’ve had in my career – graphing instruction. It was a tough realization when my passion and my competency for teaching graph interpretation didn’t match, yet. If you made a Venn diagram for my passion and my competency of teaching graphing interpretation last month, you’d have two circles with no overlap, and it made me very sad. It also got me thinking, and we need more graphing instruction professional development for science teachers. Kim of course didn’t have any problem with this one, saying she’d send me her graphing materials.
It’s been a challenging year. I’ve made massive strides in classroom management, curriculum improvements, and planning, but it seems I’ve hit a sophomore slump.
SHOULD HAVE ADDED WAYS TO GET INVOLVED, CITIZEN SCIENCE FOR 8TH GRADERS WITH SSL OPPORTUNITIES, MAKE THIS A FOCUS IN 8TH GRADE FORENSICS
“QUOTE BY ANOTHER PERSON HERE”
On a happier note, I do have one success story to share while working with a committed group of individuals on the School Energy and Recycling Team (SERT) Committee. With their ongoing support, I initiated a “Skip a Straw, Save a Turtle” coloring contest for all three grades on my campus. The result
Standards 5 and 6 – Training on MCPS County rubrics and Unit 3, Journey of the Turtles redo with whole county, look at this workshop from January.
Pictures of metric system sharing on Kesler, as well as Fact vs. Fiction Friday, and changes to
When it comes to our staff involvement in the SERT committee and especially the Skip a Straw Save a Turtle and Strive for Five initiatives, we felt it was most important to “bring awareness to the environmental impact of using single use plastics and reducing energy consumption,” shared our 7th grade science teacher Yvonne M. “I like the simple every day little tasks that add up and have a cumulative effect on saving energy in the building,” said Dave K, my fellow 8th grade science teacher.
UPLOAD VIDEO FROM TNN!!!
This is progress, measured one less plastic straw and one more aware student at a time.
ONTEST AND THE SERT COMMITTEE, GIRL WHO CONTEST INSPIRED, LESSONS FROM INTEGRITY DAY
PIX OF POSTERS, INCLUDING OLIVIA, LINA, PEYTON,
If you’re not careful, and you don’t have a Kim, it can be easy to fall into traps of doubt or regret. Even with my drive, I reflect on the times I’ve felt under-supported or, worse, betrayed, by family, friends, or peers. What I’ve learned is these things will happen. There will always be a parent, student, admin, family member, friend or peer that steps on your mojo, even if they don’t mean to. The world’s getting smaller, we have less space to navigate on our own. But it’s all about how we treat ourselves and others (not if but) when unfavorable things happens to us. There will always be adults and kids having a hard time, and sometimes it will feel like they’re giving us a hard time but they’re not. They are just having a hard time. It might not always be easy to meet people where they are, but we’ll get there eventually, we just gotta try. If people take things away from you, take the lesson and run with it. It’s impossible to hold on to a loss anyway. So, if you eff up your first time teaching climate science, do it better next time. And if you really do fail at something, then be the best at it and make that shit a success.
This Undo is dedicated to the lesson of not only meeting kids where they are, but going to get them where they are. If they are all falling down at different points on the trail, I cannot wait patiently until they all arrive. I need to go pick up each and every one of them and teach each one separately while they get caught up on the trail. Every reading, video, and especially graph. Otherwise, they aren’t available to learn, no matter how patiently we wait. It’s a tooooouugh lesson to learn and stinks when you fail teaching it the first time, and it’s a very ‘sophomore slump’ type of lesson. Except it’s a valuable one to own and move on. Actually, not move on, per say, but move forward.
“We have a single mission: To protect and hand on the planet to the next generation.”
President of France
The curriculum LOVE THE VIDEOS BY BILL NYE, NAT GEO, AND OTHERS IN AGENDA
and congrats to STEMJourneys for third year!
Download & Thanks
Kim won, and now you can, too. Get full student engagement with STEMJourneys.org Climate Science From All Angles Lesson 2019, now available as a free download for us all.Many thanks and safe travels!
This Adventure is dedicated to my long-time colleague and daily inspiration, Kim Cole. Without her, I would not be able to navigate the world and its break-neck pace, let alone teach. Without planning it, we both put our money where our mouth is by returning to the classroom with over 25 years combined experience. I’ll speak for both of us; when it comes to teaching climate science, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. It only matters that you play the game at all.
The mission of spectrumclassrooms.com is to build and share opportunities for teachers that share journeys in cultivating STEM classrooms, one Adventure at a time. Site content and SPECTRUM acrostic copyright 2019 STEMJourneys.org. All Rights Reserved. Not responsible for any third-party content.
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Special Segment: More Resources
NASA For Educators: Global Climate Change
Climate Resources for Educators
Alliance for Climate Education has a multimedia resource called Our Climate Our Future, plus more resources for educators and several action programs for youth.
The American Association of Geographers has free online professional development resources for teachers.
American Reading Co. sells an English Language Arts curriculum called ARCCorethat includes climate change themes.
Biointeractive, created by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has hundreds of free online education resources, including many on education and the environment, and it offers professional development for teachers.
Climate Generation offers professional development for educators nationwide and a youth network in Minnesota.
CLEAN (Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network) has a collection of resources organized in part by the Next Generation Science Standard it is aligned with.
Global Oneness Project offers lesson plans that come with films and videos of climate impacts around the world.
Google offers free online environmental sustainability lesson plans for grades 5-8.
“We believe that the social and emotional skills we help strengthen in young people and adults are sorely needed to combat the fear and avoidance we and students experience around climate change,” spokesperson Laura McClure told NPR.
The National Science Teachers Association has a comprehensive curriculum.
The Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, N.Y., has a book called the Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change.
Ripple Effect “creates STEM curriculum” for K-6 “about real people and places impacted by climate change,” starting with New Orleans.
Ten Strands offers professional learning to educators in California in partnership with the state’s recycling authority and an outdoor-education program, among others.
Think Earth offers 9 environmental education units from preschool through middle school.
The Zinn Education Project (based on the work of Howard Zinn, the author of A People’s History Of The United States) has launched a group of 18 lessons aimed specifically at climate justice. Some are drawn from this book: A People’s Curriculum For The Earth: Teaching Climate Change And The Environmental Crisis.
Do what’s right, good, and what works.