How do I teach about climate change?

by Stephanie Chasteen on January 2, 2010

It seems to be in vogue to teach about climate change.  Thank god.  I mean, is there anything else more confusing nowadays?  Teaching students just to wade through the puddles of mud being slung across party lines is a message in media digestion in itself!

Luckily there are many resources being developed to help educators teach about climate change.  Here I’m listing a bunch that I’ve been running across.

1.  Free standards-based climate change films (polar regions)

From CIRES in Boulder comes a set of films for use in the classroom.  Sadly, they’re right now out of DVD’s, but you can see all the clips on their website. They say:  “The film contains 7 stand-alone segments appropriate for use in all kinds of science classrooms and informal settings from the middle level through college. The segments illustrate the problem of climate change and how scientists are working in Alaska and Greenland to understand it. Each segment is about 10 minutes long.  The video was developed to align strongly with the National Science Education Standards across all science subjects”

Segment 1: Introduction to Climate Change
Segment 2: Polar History
Segment 3: Studying Alaskan Permafrost
Segment 4: Ice Core Drilling
Segment 5: Studying Glaciers
Segment 6: Studying Sea Ice
Segment 7: Conclusion and Solutions

2.  Hot questions about climate change

Also here in Boulder (working for NCAR/UCAR), my fellow blogger Sharon Glassman has created a set of 30-second climate change videos, such as “What difference can a few degrees make?” (embedded below).  She says:  “The segs are fun, trustworthy, free – and designed to be spread through the atmosphere of the Web and friendship.”

3. Climate Discovery online courses

Also from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are a set of online courses. They are accepting registrations for winter term (starting Jan 22nd) here.   They cost $225 and there are several courses available.  They say:  “Are you seeking a K-12 professional development opportunity that will enhance your qualifications, competency, and self-confidence in integrating Earth system science, climate, and global change into your science classroom? The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) offers a series of six and seven week online courses for middle and high school teachers that combine geoscience content, information about current climate research, easy to implement hands-on activities, and group discussion. The courses run concurrently from January 22 through March 14, 2010.”

4.  How to effectively teach climate change

One teacher recommends a glacial melt activity here.  And a carbon calculator for kids.

CIRES has been working on a set of resources to help teach about controversial projects like climate change.   They have a set of helpful resources here. In particular:

5.  I also have a few activities and webcasts on climate change myself:

    • Several hands-on activities about weather and climate here and here (such as a rice model of the composition of the earth’s atmosphere, and a model of how carbon dioxide resonates in the infrared).
    • A set of webcasts – climate in the past (a synopsis of the included activities here) and in the future (a synopsis of content and activities here).

Also recommended are the following two books:


Bridget January 4, 2010 at 6:45 pm

[…] How do I teach about climate change? […]

Hi My Name is Bridget and I work with and organization called the Alliance for Climate Education.

We offer Free Assemblies on Climate change that are interactive and fun! We meet state standards, offer scholarships and grants, and are a free resource.

Our goal is to inspire, educate, and empower students   in the fight against global warming because we believe that young adults can have a substantial impact on the global climate crisis. 

Next, all of the information that we provide is from reputable sources like the IPCC (the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change) and our on staff scientists are continually working to make sure that it is as up to date as it can be. 

Check us out at or shoot me and email!

sciencegeekgirl January 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I just heard another good word about Alliance for Climate Education (Bridget, above, left a comment about it). They really do offer free talks to schools on climate change. What a bonus! Here’s what another of their representatives wrote on another listserv: Thanks for helping us spread the word about ACE::The Alliance for Climate Education – the first and only organization that visits high schools to deliver exciting science-based multi-media presentations on climate education. You can get a feel for our dynamic presentation via our trailer on YouTube.
Students and teachers love our presentation- check out the latest buzz here. We gave more than 150 presentations in a pilot to test our program in the Spring, and aim to reach 140,000 high-school students by the end of the year.
Along with providing a cool presentation, we get into tangible solutions to fight global climate change. We also build on education to engage and empower students to take action via grant and scholarship opportunities – you can read about our latest scholarship winners here.

Kim Kerns January 31, 2010 at 10:54 pm

I am a high school science teacher and used the 2 books you recommended. I am going to check out Bridget’s site, Thanks. Are you on teacher tube? You tube is blocked site for many schools.

sciencegeekgirl February 2, 2010 at 3:23 am

Hi Kim,

Glad to hear that those two books are good ones! I personally don’t have anything on Teacher Tube — which videos were you asking about in particular?


kasturi September 3, 2012 at 4:26 am

hi…i’m kasturi here. i am postgraduate student in University Sains Malaysia.(Malaysia).i’m looking for the tips how to effectively teach climate change. can i share your pdf copy, common misconception about climate change.i’m doing project on that in our country for form four students.

Stephanie Chasteen September 3, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Hi Kasturi,
Sure, but they’re not my PDF’s, they were created by CIRES. It looks like the links changed so I just updated them, but you can access all their materials at Look on their page to see how they suggest attributing their work, perhaps.


kasturi September 5, 2012 at 8:16 am

thank you so much….my dear

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