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Using Minnesota’s Changing Climate in your educational setting

Minnesota’s Changing Climate was created with the following goals in mind:

  1. To build awareness and interest in:
    • Minnesota’s natural environment
    • The impact of climate change
  2. To provide educators and students with the tools necessary for active and lifelong stewardship.

Recognizing the time constraints and standards-based school environment that exists today, WSF developed these six lessons to make them as useful as possible to educators. They are aligned to Minnesota State Science and Literacy Standards, as well as the Climate Literacy Principles. It is not meant to provide students with an in-depth introduction to the science of climate change, but rather as a review if they have studied it before, or an introduction if it is a new issue. For educators interested in providing students with a more in-depth study of climate change, our Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-12 Global Warming 101 Lessons provide this opportunity and can be downloaded for free at www.willstegerfoundation.org.

This set of lessons will be most effective when used in their entirety, including the “Journal Connection” and “Take It Outside-Connecting With Your Place” sections, in conjunction with the online classroom. That said, these lessons could be used in a variety of educational settings. It can also follow a variety of different timelines such as over an intense week of study or once a week over the course of a month and a half. The following suggestions might be helpful when developing your plan of implementation for Minnesota’s Changing Climate, but we also trust that as an educator you are the experts and will change and adapt lessons best for your situation. We would love to hear how you are using the curriculum in your classroom or school. Please share your stories, photos or videos with us.

Document, document, document

The first lesson of this curriculum is about starting a journal and includes examples of different ways of documenting and reflecting. This lesson was deliberately developed with the idea that a journal, science notebook or blog can provide students with an excellent means to practice reflection, observation and synthesis of information. In addition, if used throughout the implementation of this curriculum, the final product can provide educators with a great assessment of student learning.

Teach Across the Curriculum

Some schools work in team settings with different educators taking on different subject areas. While this is the norm in middle and high school, it can occur in elementary classrooms as well. If possible, break apart the lessons between educators or subject area teaching time, and emphasize the relevant content.

For example:

Lesson 1: What is a journal for?
This lesson is obviously well aligned with any English/language arts course; however, many science classes have begun using science notebooks, and an art class could work on creating the stylistic/graphic design. In addition, it could be possible to set up a blog for each or your students, putting an emphasis on technology skills.

Lesson 2: What defines Minnesota’s biomes?
This lesson could fit well with life science, environmental science, earth science and physical geography, depending on what content you wanted to emphasize.

Lesson 3: What defines Minnesota’s climate?
Earth science, life science and math could address this lesson.

Lesson 4: What is climate change and what does it mean for Minnesota?
Although this lesson presents students with climate science information, there is a big emphasis on communicating the information that would work well in any English or public speaking course or unit.

Lesson 5: What does the data show?
This lesson is very data- and graph-focused and therefore would work well with any earth science or life science unit focused on interpretation of information. It could also be used and extended in a math course.

Lesson 6: What can I do?
Some schools have volunteer or service learning staff that might be able or interested in facilitating this lesson. Bringing together all the staff that participated, and making this the assessment for students that have completed this unit would also be an exciting possibility. Finally, students may be able to take on this part in an after-school setting through an environmental club.

We really mean it when we say “Take It Outside!”

The “Take It Outside—Connecting with Your Place” section of each lesson is not meant to be an extension, but rather an integral part of each lesson. Connecting students with the biome in which they live and providing them with the skills to be eyewitnesses to the changing climate we live in is an important goal of this project. Not only do we think this is important, but research shows that getting students outside daily is beneficial not only to their health, but their ability to perform in school. (See http://www.childrenandnature.org/research/) Suggestions of how to “Take it Outside” with your classroom include:

  • Make an outing to your schoolyard once a week throughout the entire year to observe the same area and record changes in a journal or science notebook.
  • Select a weather reporter each day that records the temperature, precipitation, etc. as well as researches weather history via the Internet or an almanac. Record in the classroom and use data for different graphing exercises and compare year to year.
  • Ask students to select an area to observe near their home and make weekly observations in a journal or science notebook.

Use the Online Classroom

The Online Classroom designed in conjunction with this curriculum is a fantastic way to bring some of the content alive in the classroom in a educator-facilitated setting. Ideally, students will be introduced to the classroom and given time to explore it at school. Additional opportunities for assessment are available through the classroom, and if your students have the Internet available at home, exploring pieces of the classroom could be integrated as homework. We highly encourage educators and students to share what they have learned through this curriculum, and the online classroom is a place where students and educators can upload photos of their biome, journal entries and other observations, as well as see what other schools around the state are doing.

Do an Action Project

Climate change can be overwhelming and frightening. Students should understand the consequences and impacts of climate change in Minnesota, but then be offered the opportunity to discuss and learn about potential solutions. Facilitating a discussion of possible action projects, rather than selecting one for students to do, will make students feel more involved and empowered, as well as provide educators with a good assessment of what the students have learned and how much they have connected the causes of climate change with possible actions.