EarthTalk: Do you have any tips for explaining
global warming and other complex environmental problems
to my kids? – Peter Buckley, Pittsburgh, PA
are many resources available to help parents and
educators teach kids how to understand the issues
and become better stewards for the planet.
credit: Global Imagination
today may be more eco-savvy than we were at their age, but
complex topics like global warming may still mystify them.
Luckily there are many resources available to help parents
teach their kids how to understand the issues and become
better stewards for the planet.
great place to start is the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s (EPA’s) “A Student’s Guide
to Global Climate Change” website. The site is divided
into sections (Learn the Basics, See the Impacts, Think
like a Scientist and Be Part of the Solution) so kids can
get just the right amount of detail without feeling overwhelmed.
One feature of the site is a virtual trip around the world
to see the effects of climate change in different regions.
An emissions calculator—with questions tailored to
kids’ lifestyles—helps connect everyday actions
(like running the water while brushing teeth) and climate
change. And a FAQ page answers some of the most common questions
about climate change in easy-to-read short paragraphs.
great online resource is NASA’s Climate Kids website,
which engages kids with games, videos and craft activities
and offers digestible info on what’s causing climate
change and how kids can make a difference. A guided tour
of the “Big Questions” (What does climate change
mean? What is the greenhouse effect? How do we know the
climate is changing? What is happening in the oceans? and
others) uses cartoon characters and brightly colored designs
to help kids come to grips with the basics.
even more engaging for those eight and older is Cool It!,
a card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The game, designed in collaboration with science educators,
requires players to collect “solution” cards
in the categories of energy, transportation and forests,
while slowing opponents down by playing “problem”
cards along the way. “The game enables teachers and
parents to talk about global warming in a fun and hopeful
way,” reports UCS. “Kids, meanwhile, will learn
that all of us make choices that determine whether the world
warms a little or a lot, and which of those choices reduce
global warming emissions.” The game is available for
purchase ($7.95) directly from the UCS website.
kids curious about climate change can consult the Professor
Sneeze website, which features online illustrated children’s
stories that present global warming in a familiar context.
The stories for five- to eight-year-olds follow a cartoon
bunny on various warming related adventures. A few of the
story titles include “The Earth Has a Fever,”
“Where Are the Igloos of Iglooville?” and “Tears
on the Other Side of the World.” The site also features
stories geared toward 8- to 10-year-olds and 10- to 12-year-olds.
course, teachers can play a key role in making sure kids
are well versed in the science of climate change. A recently
launched initiative from the National Center for Science
Education (NCSE)—long respected for its work in defending
and supporting the teaching of evolution in the public schools—aims
to help teachers do a better job of teaching climate change
in the classroom. The group’s Climate Change Education
website points teachers to a treasure trove of resources
they can use to demystify the science behind global warming,
combat “climate change denial” and support “climate
EPA’s “A Student’s Guide to Global
Climate Change,” www.epa.gov/climatestudents;
NASA Climate Kids, http://climatekids.nasa.gov;
NCSE’s Climate Change Education Initiative, http://ncse.com/climate;
Professor Sneeze, www.contespedagogiques.be/pages/accueil_angl.html.
U.S. Energy Information Administration, www.eia.gov;
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