Effective local action to address climate change requires a populace to understand the complex science and social dimensions of this global threat. To this end, the Ithaca-based Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) created The Teacher-Friendly Guide™ to Climate Change and is engaged in an ongoing effort to distribute it to all high school science teachers in the United States, countering the Heartland Institute’s 2017 nationwide distribution of classroom materials rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change. In December 2017, the PRI received a Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Tompkins to print guides for all high school science teachers in Tompkins County.
Dryden High School teacher Travis Crocker, who teaches Earth Science, Environmental Science, and Astronomy, relayed the importance of teaching climate science in an interview with PRI Senior Education Associate Alexandra Moore.
AM: You say you are you excited to use The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change. Can you tell us why?
TC: The students in our school today – I work with sophomores and seniors – want to get excited about what they’re studying. They want to see the application of what they’re learning. They hear about climate change quite a lot, but often it’s filtered through the media – so they can get different messages – and there is certainly confusion when local events don’t seem to align with a warming planet. For example, when the eastern US is cold they wonder what happened to Global Warming? Students really need to understand the global perspective, not just what is happening locally. This is particularly true when they hear people say that climate change isn’t real, it is especially important to look beyond our back yard.
AM: Where do Dryden teachers go for resources?
TC: I usually start with NASA and NOAA. Many people don’t know that these organizations (responsible for most of our satellite observing systems) look down at the Earth as much as they look away to the stars. It is important for students to know why we make these observations and how they can record the changes on Earth and in its atmosphere. With respect to climate change, there is no more relevant topic that we can discuss with students. Many aren’t going to become scientists but they are all citizens and all citizen-scientists, voting and making decisions – we need educated citizens.
AM: How does climate change fit into the Dryden science curriculum?
TC: In our Earth Science courses we have a whole unit on climate change; both the Regents and Honors Earth Science classes include climate change in the meteorology and climatology elements of the curriculum. This is important because it is critical for students to understand where scientists stand on climate change. And interestingly, since we see many of the same students in both 10th and 12th grades we can see student engagement increase across those years.
AM: Do students get depressed by all the bad news?
TC: No – they get excited about affecting change. Our students recognize that they have power to make change through their own actions, and especially by who they ultimately vote into office
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