After a harrowing summer — with stinging wildfire smoke, blistering heat waves, and raging floods — students returned to school. Then another round of heat waves sent students in 10 states back home. Clearly, climate change is already affecting American education. What, then, should schools teach students about it?
The 12 books selected for this month’s bookshelf offer guidance for educators at all levels: two- and four-year colleges, and high, middle, and primary schools. All have been published since Yale Climate Connections’ last two-part series on teaching climate change (see Part 1, Part 2); most have been published in the current year.
The list begins and ends with titles about teaching and responding to climate change in colleges and universities. “Universities on Fire” envisions how climate change might intersect with the physical campus, operations, calendar, student bodies, and curriculum of America’s institutions of higher education. (See a review by Yale Climate Connections contributor Donald Wright here.)
The next five books explore a range of pedagogical problems and solutions. They are followed by three titles that more specifically address the teaching of climate change in grades K-12, 6-12, and 1-5. (Useful context for these studies is provided by “Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America” by Katie Worth, a book highlighted in YCC’s September 2022 bookshelf for “a multidisciplinary curriculum on climate change.”)
The list ends with three titles that examine climate change through lenses provided by three different academic disciplines: literature, law, and sociology. Their findings will likely influence future efforts to adapt schools and students for our climate-changed world.
As always, the descriptions of the titles are adapted from promotional copy provided by their publishers.
Universities on Fire: Higher Education in Climate Crisis by Bryan Alexander (The Johns Hopkins University Press 2023, 288 pages, $34.95)
In Universities on Fire, futurist Bryan Alexander explores higher education during an age of unfolding climate crisis. Powered by real-world examples, Alexander assesses possible responses and strategies by surveying contemporary programs and academic climate research from around the world. He models how academic institutions might respond and offers practical pathways forward. How will the two main purposes of education — teaching and research — change as the world heats up? Alexander positions colleges and universities in the broader social world. By connecting climate research to a deep, future-informed analysis of academia, Universities on Fire explores how climate change will fundamentally reshape higher education.
Climate Change Education: An Earth Institute Sustainability Primer by Cassie Xu and Radhika Iyengar (Columbia University Press 2023, 192 pages, $20.00 paperback)
Climate change affects every person and society, every community and industry. Education at all levels, in all disciplines, and both inside and outside official institutions must now address climate change and its many effects on social and environmental systems. This book provides a framework for putting climate change at the forefront of educational agendas and offers pedagogical tools for teaching climate science across local and global settings. It makes the case that students need to understand climate science and the physical and social impacts of climate change not only to be good citizens but also to be well-prepared for different career paths. How we teach future generations about climate change, it makes clear, will shape our future.
Climate Change Education: Reimagining the Future with Alternative Forms of Storytelling, edited by Rebecca Young (Lexington Books 2023, 254 pages, $105.00 hardback, $45.00 ebook)
Climate Change Education: Reimagining the Future with Alternative Forms of Storytelling offers innovative approaches to teaching about climate change through storytelling forms that appeal to today’s students: climate fiction and protest poetry, fiction and documentary films, video games, and social media. Contributors from around the world encourage educators to offer comprehensive K–12 climate education by aligning pedagogy with real-world challenges in order to help students understand the myriad injustices of the climate crisis and feel empowered to confront them. By sharing their own stories, they urge others to join the growing, hopeful movement for action, classroom by classroom.
Climate Change Education: Knowing, Doing and Being 2E by Chang Chew Hung (Routledge 2022, 246 pages, $44.95 paperback)
Now in its second edition, Climate Change Education explores what education for climate change entails, discussing the concept of climate change education (CCE) itself, how it is taught in schools, and how public education is being carried out. Updated with the latest literature in a quickly advancing field, the book defines CCE for the global citizen and reviews supporting pedagogies. It also identifies teachers as key stakeholders in climate change discourse, shows how to improve teacher readiness, and explains how professional development can support successful implementation of CCE. This book will be an invaluable reference resource for teachers, education policymakers, and public education agencies.
Teaching Climate Change: Fostering Understanding, Resilience, and a Commitment to Justice by Mark Windschitl (Harvard Education Press 2023, 248 pages, $38.00 paper)
Teaching Climate Change lays out a comprehensive approach to K–12 climate change education that builds in-depth knowledge, empowers students, and promotes a social justice mindset. Exuding hope for the future, Windschitl emphasizes the big picture of research-informed teaching about climate change. He presents real-life classroom examples that illustrate not only key STEM concepts, such as carbon cycles and the greenhouse effect, but also broader issues, including the countering of misinformation, the centering of human stories, and the advancement of justice. Windschitl also addresses the social-emotional toll that discussion of the climate crisis may take on both students and teachers and shows how the classroom can inspire activism.
Rethinking Environmental Education in a Climate Change Era: Weather Learning in Early Childhood by Tonya Rooney and Mindy Blaise (Routledge 2022, 168 pages, $44.95 paperback)
As the impacts of climate change become harder to ignore, it is increasingly evident that children will inherit futures where climate challenges require new ways of thinking about how humans can live better with the world. This book re-situates weather in early childhood education. It views people as inherently a part of and affected by nature, and it challenges the positioning of humans at the center of progress and decision-making. Exploring the ways children can learn with weather, this book for researchers and advanced students works with the pedagogical potential in children’s relations with weather as a vital way of connecting with and responding to wider climate concerns.
Teaching Climate Change in Primary Schools: An Interdisciplinary Approach, edited by Anne M. Dolan (Routledge 2021, 364 pages, $36.95 paperback)
This timely book provides an overview of climate change and highlights the importance of including climate change education in primary schools. It emphasizes the importance of cross-curricular pedagogical approaches with a focus on climate justice, providing in-depth assistance for teaching children aged 3–13 years. Guided by up-to-date research, the book helps teachers faithfully present climate change science without overwhelming children. Accompanied by online resources, the book includes practical and easy-to-follow ideas and lesson plans that will help teachers include climate change in their classrooms in a holistic, cross-curricular manner. Whether primary teachers, student teachers, or geography specialists, educators will find much of use in this book.
Teaching Climate Change for Grades 6–12: Empowering Science Teachers to Take on the Climate Crisis Through NGSS by Kelley Le (Routledge 2021, 222 pages, $31.16 paperback)
Looking to tackle climate change and climate science in your classroom? This timely and insightful book supports and enables secondary science teachers to develop effective curricula ready to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Experienced science educator and leader Dr. Kelley T. Le offers this support by providing an overview of the teaching shifts needed for NGSS and to support climate literacy. Teachers will also learn how to engage the complexity of climate change by exploring social, racial, and environmental injustices that directly impact students. By anchoring instruction around the climate crisis, Dr. Le offers guidance on how to empower students to be the agents of change needed in their communities.
This book highlights best practices in climate change education by analyzing a rich collection of case studies that showcase educational programs across the United States. These range from traditional institutions such as K-12 schools and universities to the contemporary learning environments of museums and environmental education centers. In the process, the role of mass media and community-level educational initiatives is examined. The authors also address the challenge of multi-stakeholder projects, tensions between Indigenous knowledge and scientific research, education for youth activism, and professional learning. By telling stories of success and failure from the field, this book helps educators navigate increasingly rough and rising waters.
Atmosfears: The Uncanny Climate of Contemporary Ecofiction by Natalie Dederichs (Transcript Publishing 2023, 288 pages, $55.00 paperback)
We live in a critical moment in history, often called the “Anthropocene,” that is defined by unprecedented scales of uncertainty. Natalie Dederichs draws on insights from the new materialisms about the entangled nature of planetary existence and combines them with approaches to aesthetics from fields as diverse as reader-response criticism, phenomenology, Gothic, and media studies. She introduces a poetics of atmospheric re(lation)ality as a necessary component of any ecological engagement with fiction that fully embraces literary encounters with the inaccessible and elusive as expressed in uncanny atmospheric reading experiences.
Fighting Climate Change Through Shaming by Sharon Yadin (Cambridge University Press 2023, 75 pages, $22.00 paperback)
Part of the Element series on organizational responses to climate change, this title introduces a “regulatory climate shaming” framework that utilizes corporate reputational sensitivities and the willingness of stakeholders to hold firms accountable for their actions. Law professor Sharon Yadin explores the developing landscape of climate shaming practices employed by governmental regulators in various jurisdictions via rankings, ratings, labeling, company reporting, lists, online databases, and other forms of information-sharing regarding corporate climate performance and compliance. Against the backdrop of insufficient climate law and regulation worldwide, Yadin offers other policy options for action.
Drawing from a rich collection of interviews and surveys with self-identified climate change skeptics (and some former ones), sociologists Kristin Haltinner and Dilshani Sarathchandra delve into the underlying dynamics of climate skepticism in the U.S., especially regarding wildfires. In probing how ideas about science, religion, politics, and media affect perceptions of climate change, they find a far greater diversity of attitudes and beliefs than one might expect — including some pro-environmental views. With this nuanced understanding of climate change skepticism, Inside the World of Climate Change Skeptics offers much-needed insights on improving communication in ways that can advance environmental policies with widespread political support.