Does Your School Board Support Teaching Climate Change?

A new survey finds that 78% of Americans support teaching children about climate change. This comes despite conservative activists attempting to influence school boards to undermine environmental education.

The study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication includes a county-by-county breakdown of the survey results. Check the map to see whether your school officials’ approach to climate change reflects the wishes of your neighbors.

Legislatures in states such as Idaho, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia have attempted to remove references to climate change from education standards or deleted references to the linkage between fossil fuels and air pollution. Yet in these states, no fewer than two thirds of survey respondents support educating youth on climate science.

A national survey of science teachers found a rise in environmentally themed lesson plans. Roughly 75% of public school science teachers discuss climate change and almost all public school students likely receive some education about recent global warming.

While well intended, many of these teachers are getting the facts wrong. More than 30 percent of teachers are telling students that climate change is still debated among scientists.

Part of the problem is that no cumulative curriculum exists for children on topics such as climate change. Plus, scientific advances regularly outpace school textbooks and many teachers’ own training. Fewer than half of all teachers had any formal coursework on the topic.

This also makes our teachers vulnerable to persuasion from biased sources. A group of climate skeptics last year mailed thousands of educational resources to school teachers in an attempt to persuade them that climate scientists are unconvinced about the realities of climate change.

Parents can help by providing teachers access to well-researched, age-appropriate lesson materials. This spring, a group of earth scientists associated with Cornell University started raising funds to send their new book The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change to every middle school and high school in the country. As of March, the researchers had raised enough funding to send the materials to 50,000 teachers.

“It’s written for an audience that is scientifically literate but not in the disciplinary areas you need to teach climate change,” said Don Duggan-Haas, a co-author of the book. “This is for the biology teacher who is suddenly assigned to teach an earth science class.”



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