MY HUSBAND and I are teachers--my subject is music, his is math and physics--which means we both have witnessed how even a single lesson, song, or story can inspire young people. Many students now understand that they and the other inhabitants of the Earth--because of its shifting climate--are in trouble.
As teachers, we want to offer accurate information and doable solutions so that students can organize around this crisis, both to lessen its severity and prepare for coming storms. How might teachers help students of various ages meaningfully confront one of the greatest challenges humankind ever has faced? How do we discuss the reality and causes of--as well as the solutions to--global warming?
I recommend that, first and foremost, teachers make their lessons age appropriate. For younger children, that means going easy on climate science, which can be frightening. Instead, focus on gardening, nature immersion, and care of animals and our communities, all of which engage their compassion for other beings and meet their need for fresh air and movement.
With older kids, we can start teaching both science and civics, while sharing stories about young people who use their creativity and determination to solve local problems created by global wanning. In The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, for instance, we meet William as a teenager living in Malawi, Africa, during a prolonged drought. William builds a windmill out of scrap metal, and not only is able to bring light to his home, but water to his village.
For teens, I recommend familiarizing them with the most authoritative global warming science, as well as more civic opportunities. One helpful resource is Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken. This beautifully photographed, well-researched, and accessible book is a catalog of 100 doable climate solutions. Knowledge is power, and now, more than ever, educators are key to empowering young people to protect the natural systems that support their lives.
When it comes to climate change, it is important to make clear why there still is hope to turn things around. "A lot of my colleagues have now said it's too late. We've passed too many tipping points to go back. My answer is thank you for the message of urgency," says environmental activist David Suzuki.
I never will forget the moment my optimism returned. It was 2013, yet another year of...