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The Teacher-Friendly Guide™ to Climate Change, released by the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI), was published with an ambitious goal: to get into the hands of every public high school science teacher in the country.
The book was first published in 2017 and the reason for this goal was twofold. The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change is a valuable resource and one of the only textbooks that focuses solely on the topic of climate change. The second part was to provide an antidote for a climate change-denying booklet published by the Heartland Institute, the largest climate change-denying organization in the world.
I said, ‘We should send our book to everybody!’ Everybody looked at me and said, ‘you’re nuts.’ I said, ‘Yes I am, but we’re going to do it nonetheless.
“In the spring of 2017, the Heartland Institute published their booklet and sent it to pretty much every teacher from K–college, and that’s not a one off—they do that whenever the IPCC reports come out,” said Dr. Alexandra Moore, Senior Education Associate for PRI. Dr. Moore oversaw the daunting project of getting these new books into the hands of as many teachers as possible. “I said, ‘We should send our book to everybody!’ Everybody looked at me and said, ‘you’re nuts.’ I said, ‘Yes I am, but we’re going to do it nonetheless.’”
Dr. Moore organized a fundraiser that enabled PRI to provide The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change to about 60,000 high school science teachers.
The Importance of Being Teacher Friendly
The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change is the latest in a series of books published by PRI to help provide Earth science resources for science teachers. These guides are Earth science-focused and designed to be accessible and approachable.
“One audience for these guides is the biology teacher who suddenly becomes an Earth science teacher,” explained Dr. Don Haas, Director of Teacher Programming at PRI. “They are scientifically literate but haven’t had a course about the content that they suddenly have to teach. That’s a key audience the whole series aims to reach. They work for the art teacher who suddenly becomes a science teacher as well.”
To help teachers get started, The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change has an accompanying website that provides further resources such as PDFs and ideas for investigations. Additionally, the information contained within The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change is presented in easy-to-digest language.
“If you are a teacher and you go to look for information about climate change, one of the first places you might go is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and their presentation is so opaque,” Dr. Moore said. “They are the premiere organization on climate change, but the way they present information is very challenging.”
These guides act as an interpreter between researchers and educators.
These guides act as an interpreter between researchers and educators. With a topic as urgent as climate change, having access to reliable, relevant subject material that’s easy for students to understand is invaluable.
These guides are meant to be financially accessible, too. “They’re all free online as PDFs,” explained Dr. Haas. “They are designed with images that are not copyright protected so teachers can use them freely.”
Changing the Conversation About Climate Change
One of the biggest challenges science teachers face is helping students understand real-world applications of abstract concepts. The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change doesn’t just focus on abstract concepts; it supports educators as they help students connect the dots between concepts and concrete examples in their communities.
The textbook helps educators navigate how to use these examples so students can see how relevant climate change is to their own life.
“The other guides are written with attention to the value of using local and regional examples, and that idea is in this guide as well,” Dr. Haas explained. “It makes the information much more relevant. The increasingly extreme weather events every region of the country is facing as a result of climate change is an example of this. Record-breaking snowstorms in Buffalo, New York, and devastating hailstorms in El Paso, Texas, are very different, but the events both stem from climate change. The book helps educators navigate how to use these examples so students can see how relevant climate change is to their own life.”
When students understand the effect climate change is having on their communities, they are more likely to want to learn more and to take action. Students often go on to educate their families about climate change and make decisions to help reduce their carbon footprint.
“It’s important for students to construct their own understanding of climate change,” Dr. Moore said. “One of the things I love about Vernier products is that students can take measurements and understand things that are really important going on in the environment around them. Really simple tools have a whole lot of power.”