Teaching About Climate Change


April 22, 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the theme was “climate action.” Students around the world have identified climate change as a source of anxiety and their primary concern related to sustainability. With the Sustainable Development Goals, the international community has committed itself to combating climate change and related issues by the year 2030. Also, climate change movements have been making headlines like never before with Fridays for Future movement started by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and Fire Drill Fridays spearheaded by actor and activist Jane Fonda. So, what does this all mean for today’s students? How can we make sure students understand the issues of climate change and how they relate to their rights and responsibilities as civic actors? 


Lesson Plans

  1. Leaders 4SC Task Forces: Students work together to role play as key decision makers to Design a Green City or Choose an Energy Solution for their Country and then use the provided slides templates to present their ideas to the class. 
  2. NASA – Global Climate Change: NASA provides a collection of resources for educators related to global climate change. The resources suggested come from organizations including NASA’s Climate Kids, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the NOAA, the Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA), the CLEAN project, and more. Also, at the bottom of this site’s page, there are two separate links—one which brings users to a list of NASA’s free climate mobile apps and another that leads to a gallery of before-and-after images of certain areas of Earth that have suffered due to climate change. Educators seeking lesson plans and other resources on climate change should take a look at what NASA has to offer!
  3. Climate Change Education – Essential Information for Educators: nea offers a multitude of resources to help educators teach their students about climate change and the importance of discussing it. This brief list of resources includes lessons and activities from PBS, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other organizations. In addition, the author offers educators a bit of advice, encouraging them to emphasize to students that climate change has consequences for the earth and human lives in order to help them grasp the gravity of climate change.
  4. Climate Generation – Explore Climate Change Resources: Climate Generation has a resource library full of climate literacy materials and climate action tools for students of all grade levels. The curriculum content includes humanities modules on water scarcity and innovation/renewable energy, six lessons on the causes of climate change and its repercussions, five lesson plans covering the background information on global climate change processes, and additional resources.
  5. Coal Comes to Anytown – A Public Meeting: This activity calls for students to participate in a mock public meeting to determine a site for a new energy facility in their town. The reasoning for the meeting is public concern over the power company’s proposal to build a coal-fired generating plant. This activity will help students understand both the positive and negative impacts of power plants on communities, experience how difficult it is to find an energy source that meets the needs of various interests, recognize the importance of citizen participation, etc.
  6. Stanford Earth – Climate Change Education: Stanford Earth offers both a middle school and high school curriculum on climate change. The topics covered in this curriculum includes earth’s energy balance, greenhouse gases and energy balance, impact, adaptation, and mitigation of climate change, science consensus and the climate change debate, and mitigation strategies. The curriculum consists of activities, summative assessments, and materials (videos, websites, and articles) which will help educators to teach their students about climate change.


  1. 8 Ways To Teach Climate Change In Almost Any Classroom: npr has published an article explaining eight ways to teach climate change in almost any classroom. These eight strategies include doing a lab, showing a movie, assigning a novel, doing citizen science, assigning a research project, multimedia presentation, or speech, talking about your personal experience, doing a service project, and starting or working in a school garden. At the end of the article, there is also a list of resources for climate education that educators can use in their classroom!
  2. Climate Change Is Accelerating, Bringing World ‘Dangerously Close’ to Irreversible Change: The New York Times provides an article explaining how climate change is negatively affecting the earth. The author provides information on the extreme weather events and disasters across the nation and the world along with the details of global climate reports, such as record-breaking temperatures. In addition, the article includes several images which will help students grasp the magnitude of climate change, such as flooding in Somalia, burnt farms in France, melting permafrost in Alaska, and a floating iceberg in Greenland.
  3. Global Warming and Climate Change Effects: National Geographic offers a brief article on global warming, which focuses on the impacts of climate change and predictions of the effects that could take place later in the century if warming continues. The photo gallery may give students the visual evidence they need to buy into the concept of global warming. The article also includes a climate change video with Bill Nye, the Science Guy, which may help students gain a better understanding of climate change in a more interesting manner. 
  4. How Americans See Climate Change and the Environment in 7 Charts: The Pew Research Center provides information on how Americans can see climate change and the environment in seven charts. For Earth Day 2020, the Pew Research Center took stock of U.S. public opinion about global climate change and the environment based on recent surveys taken. From this article, students will learn more about how American’s views on climate change have changed over time.

Informational Sites

  1. NASA – Climate Change and Global Warming: NASA provides news and features, facts and evidence, and resources (multimedia, videos, infographics, articles, interactives) on climate change. The most valuable information on this website includes the evidence of climate change, the causes and effects of climate change, frequently asked questions about climate change, and more.
  2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC provides various reports about knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts, and response options, which may help students increase their knowledge on the topic of global warming as a whole. 
  3. UN – Climate Change: The United Nations provides information on climate change, including the human fingerprint on greenhouse gases, reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN legal instruments, the 2019 Climate Action Summit, and other related subject matters.
  4. Ecological Footprint: The Global Footprint Network provides an ecological footprint calculator. The questions used to calculate one’s ecological footprint include how often an individual eats animal-based products, how much of the food one eats is unprocessed, unpackaged, or locally grown, which housing type best describes your home, what material one’s house is constructed with, etc.
  5. Fridays for Future: #FridaysForFuture is a movement which began after Greta Thunberg and other activists protested in front of the Swedish parliament against the lack of action on the climate crisis. This website includes an explanation of what the movement does along with reasons individuals should strike.


The following videos provide students with information on climate change and how it affects us on a daily basis. For educators who are looking for a different way to share information about global warming with their students, these videos may prove to be useful!

  1. What is Climate Change?
  2. How Does Climate Change Affect Our Daily Lives?
  3. Crash Course Kids – Climate Change
  4. Climate Change 101 With Bill Nye


Though teaching students about climate change may be difficult, it is very important. Teaching students about climate change will not only help them better understand how our earth is being impacted by global warming but also provide them with the opportunity to learn about their individual responsibility related to the global issue. Students can get involved in combating climate change in a variety of ways, including being informed on the issues, reducing waste at their schools, and creating eco-groups. Teaching students about climate change in the classroom and providing them with some of these resources is a starting point!

Additional Resources

  1. What is Climate Change? A Really Simple Guide: BBC News offers a simple guide on climate change, which includes an explanation of climate change, information on the greenhouse effect, evidence supporting global warming, predictions of how much temperatures will rise in the future, and a description of how climate change will affect us in the future.
  2. Britannica – Climate Change: Britannica provides an informational article on climate change, including the evidence of climate change, the causes of climate change, solar variability, volcanic activity, tectonic activity, orbital variations, greenhouse gases, the Earth system, and additional related topics.
  3. 13 Major Climate Change Reports Released So Far in 2020: Yale Climate Connections offers thirteen major climate change reports released so far in 2020. Each report is accompanied by a brief summary of its contents. These summaries will help students understand how climate change is affecting our environment in the present.