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How to Teach Children About Climate Change

On March 15th, 2019, tens of thousands of students across the globe will be skipping school to protest against climate change.

This initiative has been inspired by the #FridaysForFuture movement, which has been gathering steam in recent months. Whilst young people are protesting about slightly different things, depending on their location – in the UK, one of the largest issues concerns voting age, and the desire to lower the threshold to 16 – climate change is at the centre of the movement.

Should this come as a surprise? After all, young people are perhaps more attuned to the changes in climate than older members of society: for many, each year since their birth is hotter than the last (on a global scale), and extreme weather events – from hurricanes to blizzards – are becoming increasingly normalised.

However, there is a concern amongst parents that children could find out about climate change in an unhelpful way: if the information is not delivered in an accessible manner, the news could be overwhelming or even frightening. If you’d like to educate your children about climate change in a way which encourages them to make small, positive changes for the better, please keep reading.

Climate Change Teaching Tips: Start with the Facts

Misinformation about climate change abounds, so the first thing to do is to arm yourself with the facts. The 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is one of the most compelling and critical pieces of evidence: it shows that, in order to prevent the planet reaching 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels (a crucial threshold), world leaders have just eleven years to make drastic changes.

However, it’s important not to overwhelm children with facts about rising sea levels and greenhouse gases. Breaking it down into manageable chunks is the best idea. Pick a tree in a garden or a nearby forest and use that to explore the carbon cycle; describe how plants ‘breathe’ in the gases that we breathe out. Take a look at the food in your fridge and discuss where it comes from. Think about the water cycle in your area: how are all the houses connected? Where does water go if you run the tap and some of the flow escapes down the plughole?

Don’t forget to emphasise the importance of the environment – which connects all things, whether we live in a city or in the country – and the difference between climate and weather. Everyday ups and downs are a normal part of the weather cycle; but changes over a long period of time (twenty to thirty years) are to do with the climate cycle, and that can be hard for children to grasp.

Climate Change Teaching Tips: Seek Support

Teaching children about climate change shouldn’t only be down to parents: support should be given at an educational level. If climate change is important to you, speak with the teachers at your child’s school and ask that they devote some time to this topic; and discuss the matter with your son or daughter’s tutor, too. At Mentor, we’d be very willing to discuss ways in which we can bring climate science into your child’s lesson plans – we’re here to help, and will always tailor lessons to your child and their needs.

Climate Change Teaching Tips: Take Positive Action

When it comes to young students, our tutors are concerned not only about physical aptitude but also emotional wellbeing; and anxiety can be a very common issue for children in the modern world. The topic of climate change needs to be addressed in a positive way, therefore, so as not to be overwhelming. One of the best ways to do this is to make young people feel empowered: it’s not all doom and gloom, and there are ways in which they can make a real difference!

Here are some concrete steps that you can all take as a family. Encourage your children to spread the word via social media and to have fun with their environmental efforts, too!

And finally…

Be sure to emphasise the positives: there is still time to change things for the better. The ozone layer is a great success story to recount. In 1987, world leaders came together to prohibit substances that were harming the earth’s ozone layer. The steps that were taken then averted a potential environmental crisis, and the damage to the ozone layer has now been reduced – in fact, ozone levels are set to return to pre-1980 levels by 2032.   

Therefore, whilst climate change is urgent, we aren’t helpless – and small lifestyle changes can have a huge impact!

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