Teaching Climate Change (and other resources you should know about)

Teaching Climate Change (and other resources you should know about)


1. Climate Change: Connections and Solutions

Facing the Future offers this free two-week curriculum unit for middle school and high school which encourage students to think critically about climate change and collaborate to devise solutions.  Students learn about climate change within a systems framework, examining interconnections among environmental, social, and economic issues.

2. Climate Change Teacher Resources

Windows to the Universe provides interlinked learning resources that support a variety of topics, including online content for browsing or to support an introductory online course on climate change, teacher professional development resources, classroom activities, and online interactives.

3. ClimateChange LIVE! – Resources and Online Webinars

The U.S. Forest Service and partners offer this website to bring climate learning to you through a series of webcasts, webinars, and online climate education resources.  The materials include climate education resources and programs gathered from 17 federal agency and NGO partners.  The National Wildlife Federation is hosting a series of six webinars in connection with the ClimateChange LIVE! materials; you may register for one or more webinars at a time.

4. Teaching Climate

Teaching Climate offers a searchable database of reviewed K-12 climate education resources.   The resources have been reviewed by subject experts for scientific accuracy, pedagogical soundness, and usability.  Topics include Climate Systems, Measuring & Modeling Climate, Human Responses to Climate, and more.

5. Citizen Science: Project FeederWatch

Those interested in citizen science can join the thousands of FeederWatchers across North America who count the birds at their feeders from November through early April.  All participants receive the project’s annual summary publication and the Cornell Lab’s quarterly.  New project participants receive a bird-identification poster, bird-feeding information, and instructional materials.

6. CMOP: Studying Coastal Margins

The Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction, an NSF Science and Technology Center partnership of Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, University of Washington and others, focuses on coastal margins.  The website offers a collection of activities and curricula that can help you use their data resources.  Check out the materials on coastal hypoxia, vertical density gradients, drifters and currents, and more.  Some of the materials are available in both English and Spanish.

7. Urban EE Resources for High School Teachers

The LEAF Anthology of Urban Environmental Education is available online.  The anthology  is a collection of lessons and activities designed to help high school educators infuse urban environmental themes into their curriculum.  Sections include Natural Cities, Human Cities, and Evolving Cities.

Learning Eco-Literacy (Lessons from an Orca Grandmother) Pt. 3

Learning Eco-Literacy (Lessons from an Orca Grandmother) Pt. 3

by Sally Hodson, Ed.D.
author of Granny’s Clan, published by Dawn Publications
See Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

killerwhalesboat Part 3: Tell a Story
How do we prepare young people for the 21st century challenge of caring for our planet so that it can sustain future generations of plants, animals and humans? In short, how do we educate our kids to be eco-literate?

To be literate in the language of our planet, we need to understand how life on Earth functions and how we interact with it. And we need tools to help our heads to think, our hearts to feel, and our hands to act.

This month, we’ll add Tell a Story to our Eco-Literacy Toolkit


Tell a Story
”Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Native American Proverb

We are all storytellers. Stories are part of every human culture. Stories connect us with others across time, place, culture and species. History tells us stories about our past. Science brings us stories about our natural world and the plants and animals who share it with us. Movies, books and TV fill our lives with stories

Think of your own life as a story. How do you tell your story to others? When we share and listen to stories, we integrate our left brain’s language with our right brain’s emotions and imagination. A great story helps us understand the world and gives meaning to our lives.

Where can we find powerful stories for our Eco-Literacy Toolkit?
1. Explore natural places where you live. What plants and animals share these places with you? What are their stories?
2. Read stories about plants (maple tree), animals (prairie dog town), ecosystems (kelp forest), ecological processes (salmon life cycle) and ecological changes (re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park).
3. Look for stories that inspire hope for the future (saving an endangered species).
4. Find stories of people who help us learn about the natural world (Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, Wangari Maathai, Rachel Carson).
5. Watch nature and wildlife documentaries that tell visual stories

How can we use these stories to develop ecological literacy?
1. Write Stories
– Write and illustrate a Picture Book that tells a story about nature, a plant or an animal.
– Write the Autobiography of an animal or plant. Imagine their life story and tell it from their point of view.

2. Tell Stories
– Story Circle – Choose a nature topic. With a circle of students, the first student starts the story with a sentence. Each student adds another sentence to the story. Continue until everyone has a turn and the story is completed.
– Magic Story Box – Fill a shoebox with natural objects (stone, leaf, feather, seashell). Each student picks a different object from the box. Students spend several minutes getting to know their object and then each tells a story about their object.
– Describe Me – Select a natural object (stone, leaf, feather, etc.) and place in the center of circle of students. Each student offers a different word to describe the object.
– Story Treasure Hunt – Select a picture book story about an animal or nature. Divide students into two groups. Group 1 writes out each sentence of the story on a different index card, hides the cards out of sequence and draws a treasure map to show where to find the cards. Group 2 uses the treasure map to locate the cards and then assembles them in the correct sequence to tell the story.

3. Create Visual Stories
– Design a shoebox Diorama to show plants and animals that live in a natural place.
– Paint a Mural that tells a story about a natural place.
– Make a classroom Story Quilt. Select a nature topic and ask each student to design their own story square. Assemble to create story quilt.
– Create a Comic Strip graphic story about nature.

4. Dramatize Stories
– Produce a Puppet Show about an animal’s life or a nature story.
– Create a Reader’s Theatre Script or Play about your favorite animal or nature story.

Many free downloadable activities are available at this website relating to Dawn books (go to the Teacher’s/Librarians tab on the website and select Downloadable Activities from the drop-down menu). Activities related to Granny’s Clan: A Tale of Wild Orcas that show how to use story include: .
– All in the Family (see Family Totem Pole and Family Story Quilt)
– Salmon Journey (see Salmon Life Story)
– Great Grannies (see Granny’s Life Story) and
– Tell Me a Story (Orca Rangers Comic Strip, Story Treasure Hunt and Story Circle).

Dr. Hodson is a K-12 teacher and a trainer of teachers, and was executive director of The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, WA.

Teachers discover authentic lessons in crayfish and caddis flies

Teachers discover authentic lessons in crayfish and caddis flies

Teachers discover authentic lessons in crayfish and caddis flies

What is that bug? Teachers Kathryn Davis from Hood River High School, Molly Charnes from the Academy of International Studies in Woodburn and Thomas McGregor from The Phoenix School in Roseburg work at identifying aquatic insects during a workshop in Philomath. (Photo: Lee Sherman)

By Lee Sherman

In Brief

The Issue

To provide environmental field experiences for their students, teachers need hands-on instruction in field research methods. Kari O’Connell and Susan Sahnow of Forestry Extension’s Oregon Natural Resource Education Program train high school teachers through Teachers as Researchers.

OSU Leadership

OSU trains science teachers through the Dept. of Science and Mathematics Education and provides opportunities for K-12 students through SMILE, 4-H, the Environmental Health Sciences Center and pre-college programs.

The dense grove of willow, ash, maple and alder looks like 100 percent nature’s doing. But in fact, the 3,000 towering trees shading the east bank of Marys River in Philomath grew from the vision and dedication of a science teacher and his students.

The riparian restoration that Jeff Mitchell and his biology students accomplished 10 years ago stands as a testament to the power of natural resources education and community collaboration.

“A whole generation has lost their connection to the land,” observes Mitchell, a longtime practitioner of environmental field studies at Philomath High School. “My generation were farmers and foresters. But with urbanization and electronics, people have lost track of the land and how it works. We need to restore that literacy in forestry, wetland biology and watershed dynamics.”

Now an OSU initiative is helping to re-forge those links. Oregon science teachers are getting hands-on lessons in environmental research through a two-year-old Extension program called Teachers as Researchers. This partnership between the university’s Oregon Natural Resource Education Program and the Andrews Forest Long-Term Ecological Research Program is helping educators guide their own students toward authentic, meaningful discoveries – and activism – within their local communities.

Watery Food Web

One late-September afternoon in the shade of Philomath’s student-planted trees, 15 high school teachers from Astoria to Roseburg scoop samples from the slippery riverbed with long-handled nets. Then, peering closely through handheld magnifiers, they compare their samples against photos and scientific illustrations on laminated field guides, trying to distinguish “shredders,” “collectors,” “grazers” and “scrapers”  – aquatic invertebrates like caddis flies, crayfish, damselflies, pond snails – that live and feed in healthy Northwest streams. As each creature is identified with the expert input of research ecologist Sherri Johnson of the Pacific Northwest Research Station, it is sorted with its brethren into a white plastic ice-cube tray. The proportions of, say, aquatic worms to pouch snails to blackfly larvae are indicators of the river’s ecological balance.

Ultimately, Mitchell points out with a wry smile, the study of stream ecology is all about “who’s eating whom. The presence or absence of certain species of aquatic invertebrates can tell you a lot about past and present water quality of the stream.”

During the two-day workshop, the teachers also get skills instruction in classroom-based activities like graphing water-quality variables from chemicals and invasive species to organic pollutants and temperatures.

Inspired to Learn

The project’s ultimate goal, says OSU’s Kari O’Connell, is to get high school students out into the field to conduct their own investigations. Aquatic sampling at Marys River is one of three workshops teachers take during their year-long participation. They also learn about decomposition and carbon cycles at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near Blue River and about fry and fingerlings at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center near Alsea.

“This project helps teachers engage their students in outdoor settings,” says O’Connell, who leads Teachers as Researchers. “Studies show that kids do better on achievement tests, behave better in class, get more excited about learning and feel more pride in their accomplishments when their lessons are tied to real-world environmental issues.”

The project is already having an impact in Oregon schools. During 2008, the project’s first year, nine of 13 workshop participants made quick use of their newfound skills by engaging their students in local watershed studies.

Oregon the Magnificent

Oregon’s storied landscapes — its mountains, rivers, oceans and rangelands — are prime, readymade environmental learning labs, notes Silicon Valley transplant Pete Tuana, superintendent of the Philomath School District.

“Oregon has a unique reputation as an outdoor state,” Tuana reminds the teachers before they head to the river with their sampling nets. “This environment is so magnificent. Yet today’s children get so busy playing videogames on the sofa, they don’t go outside and get dirty. Those kids are tomorrow’s stewards of the land. We’re not connecting the dots. We need a coherent, K-12 curriculum on natural resources.”

Oregon took a big step earlier this year when it became the first state to pass a “No Child Left Inside” act (House Bill 2544). Co-sponsored by Corvallis representative Sara Gelser, the legislation, part of a national movement to reconnect kids with the outdoors, created a state task force to develop guidelines, aligned with state science standards, for environmental literacy.

With its growing cadre of teacher researchers, OSU is in the vanguard of this urgent push toward authentic lessons in local landscapes.

“These inspiring teachers are preparing the future students of OSU,” says O’Connell, “and the future citizens of Oregon.”

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

By now, most of us are aware that there is a large patch of floating plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What you may not know is that it’s not made up of plastic bags and empty bottles. It’s made up of billions of tiny pieces of plastic, and it’s basically invisible unless you’re floating in it. While this might seem better, it’s actually much worse for the environment—and for you. Take a look at the Pacific Gyre and the plastic floating in it.



Gyre illustration by Jacob Magraw-Mickelson

– from good.is

Learning about waterways and First Nation ways

Learning about waterways and First Nation ways

SquamishPhotoby Sarah E. Smith
from A Newsletter of the Salish Coastal Gathering

An innovative education program is introducing Squamish First Nation kids and their non-Native classmates to the richness of plant and animal life along the waterways of their lush corner of Coast Salish territory in British Columbia.

Last school year, 500 children in 24 classes from kindergarten to seventh grade learned about the life adventures of salmon, the magic of traditional medicinal plants and the duties of humans as stewards of the land and water.

The Squamish Rivers and Estuary Education program, a partnership between local schools, an environmental nonprofit and Squamish First Nation, provides a curriculum that incorporates the ancient aboriginal culture of the area. The program began in 2006 with eight classes from three schools participating. (more…)

From Screens to Streams: Using Technology as a “Bridge” to the Outdoors

From Screens to Streams: Using Technology as a “Bridge” to the Outdoors

Rather than viewing technology as an enemy of environmental literacy, technology-based learning can help cultivate an environmental sensibility by serving as a “bridge” to the outdoors.

By Ryan Johnson

When I was ten years old, I was absolutely obsessed with the original Nintendo Entertainment System. My cousins had one, my best friend had one, it seemed like everyone I knew had a Nintendo. I would have done just about anything to have one as well, but my parents refused, despite my continuous complaints and numerous solicitations.

I thought I was the most neglected ten-year-old child in the world, while my parents, patiently suffering my pleas, would remind me that the Beartooth, Big Horn, and Pryor Mountains, the McCullough Peaks, and Shoshone River were just beyond my doorstep. These natural features were, in fact, truly magnificent and unavoidable constituents of the landscape, dominating every view with snow-capped peaks, granite cliff faces, rainbow-colored bluffs, and crystal clear riffles, containing everything from wild horses to Grizzly Bears to rattlesnakes. Now, perhaps needless to say, I prize every single second I am able to gaze upon the mountains and deserts of northern Wyoming, and I cherish every memory of running through alpine forests and mountain biking through tumbling sage brush. But a conscious acknowledgement of my privilege of being born into such natural wonder eluded me, and as a result I still found modern, escapist forms of entertainment media seductive. Even in a place completely dominated by mountains, peaks, rivers, valleys, prairie, and high desert, I still found a way to explore MTV far more often than Heart Mountain. (more…)