Welcome to the STF climate change education resource page
“Recent research shows that if only 16 percent of high school students in high- and middle-income countries were to receive climate change education, we could see a nearly 19 gigaton reduction of carbon dioxide by 2050.” – Brookings Institution, 2021
The climate crisis is the defining issue of our time, yet most students around the world still do not receive foundational learning about climate change in school. If urgent climate action is needed, then the movement to embed comprehensive climate education is imperative. Some states and school districts have begun these efforts and others are making plans to follow suit. To learn more about efforts to embed climate education, click on the boxes below.
Based on results from the Student Task Force’s student and teacher surveys across numerous campuses in Southern California, most high schoolers locally do not learn about climate change outside of their science classes. To help turn the tide and make climate education available to all, the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force (STF) is providing this library of resources across content areas to link teachers with climate-focused curriculum in their disciplines. There are lesson plans and materials to explore, as well as a ready-to-go lessons (complete with discussion questions, materials, and PowerPoint presentations) for those new to embedding climate in their subject area.
Why Climate Curriculum?
STF supports teachers to embed Human Rights Education (HRE) in their classrooms. HRE provides knowledge about human rights, the mechanisms that protect them, and reinforces skills to uphold human rights. Climate change is impacting people’s rights to life, education, health, food and water. Including climate change discussions, activities and/or teaching across all subject areas is the best way to fight the growing human rights impacts of the climate crisis. Now more than ever, students need the knowledge and skills necessary to fight climate change so they can enter the workforce prepared to turn the tide for our planet and its peoples. How can students fight for something they know nothing about? This is where our teachers come in! Without you, the change we need will not be possible.
If you have questions, comments, or materials to add to this library, please contact Jordan Todd, Student Task Force Liaison, M.A., M. Ed., Licensed CA Single-Subject Social Science Teacher.
Lesson Plans By Subject
Below is a sampling of lesson plans by subject though not exhaustive. Note that these materials are geared toward teachers outside of science where climate change curriculum is often more difficult to find. Visit the additional curricular resources below if you do not find something that suits your subject or the topic you’d like to cover. Be sure to check out other subjects as many of the lesson plans are applicable for multiple areas! Click on the subject title to see lesson plans.
- The Bowseat lessons were designed to support educators who want to bring climate change topics into their art classrooms, encourage conversations that stimulate global awareness, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving.
- The world’s only evidence-based and impact focused climate photography resource
- In this lesson from Zinn Education Project, students participate in a gallery walk and learn about climate activists. Students can analyze the photographs or create their own responses to the stories of the activists to create a gallery walk of their own!
English Language Arts
- This lesson plan from TROP ICSU, uses video and discussion to enhance the reading and the understanding of a story. A creative writing assignment helps students to personally connect with the story. The underlying thread of the story is climate change and its effects on marine biology, specifically hermit crabs.
- In this mini unit from the California Coastal Commission, students learn about environmental justice in California, and elsewhere in the US, by studying communities struggling with environmental inequities, and learning about how those communities have fought for justice. There are five 50-minute lessons within the unit.
- This lesson plan from TROP ICSU uses the TED talk, “The disarming case to act right now on climate change” by Climate Activist, Greta Thunberg, for listening comprehension followed by answering inferential questions, detecting emotive undertones as well as answering narrow focus questions about the vocabulary used.
- In this lesson from the Zinn Education Project, students investigate three “mystery” numbers in a classroom mixer. Those numbers will teach them the frightening truth about climate change and what it means for our future on this planet.
- From the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights non-profit, this lesson engages students in a reading and discussion of Wangari Maathai’s efforts to combat deforestation in Kenya. This lesson is suitable for early high school and could be adapted to include a longer writing prompt for upper grades.
- In this lesson from Project Look Sharp, students analyze videos for messages about the problems and potential solutions related to global food waste and climate change.
- In this activity from Project Look Sharp, students analyze a documentary film and a television news report for messages about how plant-based and meat-based diets impact climate change.
- This lesson plan from TROP ICSU utilizes a set of computer-based tools to introduce Formula Substitution in algebra after introducing formulas, numbers, variables, and constants. Note that this lesson is aligned to Australia teaching standards but is adaptable for an algebra lesson in the US.
- In this activity from Project Look Sharp, students analyze online graphs and text for messages about the connections between the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
- In this lesson plan from OER Commons, students will analyze the cause and/or effect of the melting of the polar ice caps over the last 40 years and determine if and when it will have a significant effect on the Earth and humanity.
- This lesson from TROP ICSU introduces students to the rate of sea levels rising due to global warming. The current rate of sea level rise is a few millimeters per year. Though seemingly inconsequential at first glance, it can produce significantly greater inland sea water intrusion over time especially in low lying coastal areas. This lesson plan will enable students to apply simple trigonometric functions to understand this phenomenon.
- In this media literacy and critical thinking activity from Project Look Sharp, students analyze a brief clip from the feature film, “The Day After Tomorrow” and a science blog post for conflicting perspectives on the potential impacts of extreme weather events related to global climate change.
- This is a critical thinking activity from Project Look Sharp in which students analyze an opinion piece and the executive summary of a governmental report for conflicting perspectives on effective climate disaster recovery efforts.
- This short unit from Journeys in Film invites students to explore various angles of a film about a boy who transforms his village in Malawi by building a wind turbine to bring water to the fields.
- These readings and resources from Teachers Climate Guide demonstrates that climate change presents challenges even in the sphere of sports practices. However, the sports world and recreation in general can lead the way in combating climate change. Alongside other school subjects, physical education plays an important part in understanding climate change in-depth and building a climate-friendly world.
Note: Defer to your science department, they have the expertise! These are just some resources we’ve found.
- In this interactive lesson from TROP ICSU introduces students to the topic of buffers and describes carbonate buffering in the ocean when atmospheric CO2 dissolves in seawater.
- In this lesson from Project Look Sharp, students analyze videos for messages about the effectiveness of different carbon sequestration solutions in reversing the impacts of greenhouse gas releases on climate change.
- In this lesson from Stanford Earth, students will analyze the sources for climate data and will analyze this data to identify the impact of climate change on physical systems.
- This is a critical thinking activity from Project Look Sharp in which students analyze two short excerpts from the documentary films “Green Gold” and “The Salt of the Earth” for different representations of reforestation as a means to sequester carbon and restore degraded ecosystems.
- In this unit, students analyze how climate change may affect migration in the future, investigate how climate change is currently impacting migration, and research how policy can address climate migration challenges globally.
- In this simulation from the Zinn Education Project, small groups of students represent competing manufacturers of “thingamabobs”—goods that, as in the real world, require natural resources and create greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. Students will learn that the more we consume and produce, the more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, and the more we put at risk life on Earth.
- This setting of this role play from the Zinn Education Project is a meeting, called by the president, to hear input on whether the Dakota Access Pipeline should be completed. Students, representing five different groups, must convince him that the project should be abandoned or allowed to proceed.
- Through this role play from the Zinn Education Project, students are introduced to 22 individuals around the world — each of whom is affected differently by climate change.
- This lesson plan from TROP ICSU explores cognitive and psychological factors that influence an individual’s response to climate change. This lesson would be applicable for an AP or other advanced Psychology class.
- This lesson plan from TROP ICSU will allow students of the French language to enhance their reading comprehension and listening comprehension skills through activities that introduce French vocabulary related to climate and climate change. These activities will also help students to learn about impacts of climate change.
- This article (available in Italian and English) includes an interview with Climatologist Donatella Spano regarding extreme weather events in Sicily in October 2021, showing what is at stake for Italy and the Mediterranean when it comes to climate change.
- This is an activity from Project Look Sharp for Spanish language classes in which students analyze three short excerpts of online newspaper articles about the economic impacts on Florida resulting from the influx of Puerto Rican climate refugees following Hurricane Maria. The student handouts are in Spanish language only, while the Teacher Guide is provided in both English and Spanish.
Each topic in the boxes below has four activities created by the STF team. These activities are about 15 minutes each and can be facilitated by a student or a teacher. They provide options for the facilitator to choose what to focus on for the Take Action element. These activities are ready to go in slideshow format but need instructions to be deleted by the facilitator once they choose the Take Action. If you have questions or comments about these resources please contact Jordan Todd.
Additional Climate Curricular Resources
This podcast shares stories ranging from Exxon’s role in climate denial to how Black Lives Matter and gender equality are related to climate change.
Project Look Sharp is a nonprofit outreach program of Ithaca College. They offer sustainability and climate-focused lesson plans.
Funded by the International Council for Science, this global library has resources for undergraduate and high school courses across subject areas.