Climate Change Resources
Many excellent lesson resources on climate change are available for free online. Consider using any of the suggested resources below to give students a foundation of climate change basics--science, causes, and impacts. An understanding of these will help them define a real-world problem for the design challenge and create an effective solution.
- NOTE: Climate change is a complex topic and it will be essential that you guide your team in selecting a narrow and specific aspect of this challenge to focus for their design project. Visit Framing the Climate Challenge for suggested ways to help your students define a specific and meaningful problem to tackle within the Challenge theme. (Registration and log-in required to access)
Climate Change Basics
Below are essential concepts that you and your students will need to be fluent in as you complete the design challenge.
Climate vs Weather
Climate and weather are distinctly different connected ideas that students need to be able to distinguish. Weather, a short-term event, is described in hours, days, and weeks while climate, a long term, is described in years and decades. One influences the other. How has your local weather patterns changed?
- NASA - What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate? (Article) - A good resource on distinguishing the two.
- NASA - What's the Difference Between Weather and Climate? (Video) - An accessible animated video on distinguishing the two.
- Climate Compared to Weather - Quick link to search results for educational resources from the CLEAN Collection.
Causes of Climate Change
The problem students choose to solve will be related to a cause of climate change. When students understand how people’s actions can contribute to climate change, then they can define a narrow problem that they would like to solve.
- European Commission: Causes of Climate Change
- Atmospheric CO2 and Earth’s Temperature - PBS Learning Media - This collection of media shows how the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has changed over time and how it affects Earth’s temperature. The two videos and graph in the collection are accompanied by a background essay and teaching tips.
Mitigation vs Adaptation
The design solution can either help mitigate, or reduce a cause of the identified climate change problem, or it can help adapt to the impacts of the problem caused by climate change. These are described in the Design Brief. Your team’s design solution should address mitigation, adaptation, or both.
- Climate Wisconsin: Adaptation & Mitigation -This short animated video does a good job describing what is meant by climate, its characteristics, and the range of impacts due to climate change. The difference between mitigation and adaptation is also discussed. (A good resource for students in any region; topic is not specific to Wisconsin.)
- Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol.II Chapter 27: Reducing Risks Through Emissions Mitigation
- Fourth National Climate Assessment, Vol.II Chapter 28: Reducing Risks Through Adaptation Actions
Climate Literacy Principles:
In 2009, the US Global Change Research Program (a collaboration of several US agencies) published a guide to promote greater climate science literacy by providing an educational framework of principles and concepts. Sections could be selected as a coach or student resource.
- Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Science [English PDF or Spanish PDF]
- NOAA - Teaching Climate: The Essential Principles of Climate Literacy
Sources for Teaching Materials
These vetted lesson resource collections on climate change have a variety of instructional resources for different grades, content areas, and aspects of the climate change issue.
- The CLEAN Collection - Compiled by the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network, this is a rigorously reviewed collection of over 700 educational resources aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
- Our Climate Our Future - An award-winning climate education resource for teachers and students, equipped with videos, interactive trivia questions, lesson plans and more. Registration is required to access these materials (there is no cost).
- NOAA Climate.gov | Teaching Climate - A diverse collection of reviewed resources for teaching about climate and energy. You can also browse the CLEAN collection (listed above) from this portal.
- National Climate Assessment Teaching Resources - The National Climate Assessment offers a wealth of actionable science about the causes, effects, risks, and possible responses to human-caused climate change. This series of guides for educators focuses on the regional chapters of the Assessment Report, helping to unpack the key messages of each region and point to related, high-quality online resources.
- NASA Global Climate Change: Resources for Educators - A list of organizations that provide reviewed listings of the best available student and educators resources related to global climate change, including NASA products.
- Climate Generation - Interdisciplinary 3-12 grade curriculum resources in the form of curriculum guides and online modules can be downloaded for free.
- EPA’s A Student’s Guide to Climate Change - This website offers interactive, video and written student resources about the basics of climate change. [It is temporarily in an archive of EPA under the current federal leadership.]
Video and Other Media
Lessons can be built around these videos.
- Video Series: Our Climate Our Future , from Alliance for Climate Education.
- Video: The Emergent Pattern of Climate Change, Gavin Schmidt, from TedTalks.
- Film: Before the Flood, from National Geographic.
- Global Climate Change: Vital signs of a planet, from NASA.
These maps and information can help students focus on the challenges of climate change on a local level.
- Third National Climate Assessment: Future Climate Projections (2014) - The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. This section of the report provides interactive maps and graphs that describe future climate conditions.
- U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit: Climate Explorer - Explore maps and graphs of historical and projected climate trends for any county in the contiguous United States.