Paper No. 103-8
Presentation Time: 10:05 AM
AT THE INTERSECTION OF INFORMAL AND FORMAL EDUCATION: THE TEACHER-FRIENDLY GUIDE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca, NY has two education venues—the Museum of the Earth and the Cayuga Nature Center—where visitors learn about climate change in non-formal or informal ways. These include interacting with exhibits, taking guided tours, and participating in education programs. To be effective in reaching visitors, we must pay attention to their broadly-ranging backgrounds, and incorporate art, language, mathematics, psychology, history, and other humanities and sciences into teaching about climate change. We have applied our experience in informal education to our new publication, The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change, which was written to help teachers in the formal education setting of their classrooms. Our focus audience is high school Earth science and environmental science teachers; since the impacts of climate change spread beyond secondary education, however, the approach will likely be useful for a wider audience, including educators of other grade levels, subjects, and contexts, as well as non-teachers who find the material helpful. Most science teachers have had little if any formal training in climate science or how to teach it, and while there is no serious controversy within the scientific community about climate change and human contributions to it, it is highly controversial from a political standpoint. All of that adds to the challenge of teaching an already complex subject. The materials included in the Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change focus both on scientific aspects of climate change: how climate works and why scientists think it’s changing, and the science and engineering behind the steps that would mitigate climate change and enable humans to adapt to climate changes that do occur. Additional discussion is presented on the political, psychological, and social issues that make it more challenging to teach climate change than other areas of the science curriculum.