Harry Wong
Jan 2017
Vol 14 No 1

Teaching Teens About Climate Change, Health – Free New H.S. Curriculum

By Teachers.Net News Desk
David Orenstein
Science News Officer
Medicine, Life Sciences and Public Health
Brown University
December 12, 2012
A Brown University class on the effect that climate change could have on human health has produced a free new curriculum for high school teachers. The nine-module unit, which reflects feedback from teachers, includes lecture background and ideas for warm-ups, in-class activities, and assessment.

No ordinary class - Katherine Smith, speaking with Provost Mark Schlissel, wanted to offer a class that would be a studio for learning by doing. The result: Her students produced a new high school curriculum on climate change and health.

No ordinary class Katherine Smith, speaking with Provost Mark Schlissel, wanted to offer a class that would be a studio for learning by doing. The result: Her students produced a new high school curriculum on climate change and health. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University

Katherine Smith’s students had to wait until they came to Brown University to learn how climate change could affect human health. Now that Smith and her fall semester class have developed a rich new curriculum on the subject for high school teachers, future 10th to 12th graders might not have to wait so long.

The curriculum, a nine-module set of backgrounders, lecture notes and suggested lesson plans and classroom activities, is now available for free download. In 180 total pages, it covers topics ranging from an overview of climate change to more specific units such as how global warming could affect infectious disease, allergies, and the global food supply.

Learning these lessons a little earlierJunior Jessica Fields and her 14 classmates studied the health effects of climate change by preparing the curriculum they wished they’d had in high school. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown UniversityLearning these lessons a little earlier
Junior Jessica Fields and her 14 classmates studied the health effects of climate change by preparing the curriculum they wished they’d had in high school. Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University


Jessica Fields, a junior concentrating in health and human biology with a focus on environmental justice, said she and her 14 classmates decided to produce materials to support high school teachers because they wished they had learned lessons like these a little earlier.

“The health implications of climate change and all these interacting factors were not necessarily touched on,” Fields said. “Providing teachers with some sort of resource to help them put together their own units was very exciting.”

Each week Smith assigned readings and the class gathered for hours to discuss them. Students teamed up in pairs to create each module. Fields, for example, focused on controversy around whether certain species should be relocated to more suitable habitats as climate change makes their natural habitat inhospitable. The practice might help species avoid extinction, but could also import new diseases to places where they didn’t exist before.

Teacher-reviewed content

Smith, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and her students knew if they were to presume to develop a high school curriculum with real classroom value, it could only be done with the input and critical review of teachers. They got just that from David Upegui, a science teacher at Central Falls High School, and Vicki Santos Silva, a teacher and director for teacher education at Breakthrough Providence, an educational nonprofit housed at the Wheeler School.

“We understood from the beginning that none of us are teachers, and teachers are the experts in educating high school students,” Fields said. “We were focusing on providing background information and all sorts of resources and then we provided suggestions on how to present the material, but we didn’t want to give teachers a script.”

Upegui emphasized that high school classroom learning has been moving away from one-way lectures to emphasize more a more participatory learning style. He therefore suggested that Smith’s class include not only background for lectures, but also ideas for classroom warm-ups, in-class activities, and ways for teachers to assess learning.

“What I offered them was how to format it so it’s more friendly for teachers,” he said. “The depth and the content were already there. It was just organizing it in a way that was a little more applicable immediately.”

For example, the curriculum had to be modular, he said, so that teachers could fit the material into what they already teach to meet their district or state’s curriculum requirements.

One of Upegui’s classes is an anatomy course, so he was particularly keen on the module on allergies. In that one, the students suggest that teachers convene their students in a medical mini-conference — complete with name tags — where the high schoolers would take on the role of allergy specialists. To their assembled colleagues they’d present their findings about the potential impact a warmer, wetter, or drier climate could have on their particular chosen or assigned allergy (e.g., pollen or mold). The activity not only provides a way for students to become especially engaged, but also it provides teachers with a means for assessing what the students have learned.

In the module on relocating species, Fields and fellow junior Tram Bui suggest splitting high school classes into the pro and con sides of the idea for a debate.

It isn’t surprising that the students in Smith’s class were receptive to the feedback of suggesting lively activities. The Brown class itself was based on that premise.

“When I designed this class I didn’t want it to be a class, I wanted it to be a studio where students learn by doing,” Smith said.

Now the students hope their curriculum will inspire more active learning about climate change and health.

Two academic programs of Brown University, the Global Health Initiative and the Environmental Change Initiative, jointly sponsored the course.



Comment on this article...

Next Article...
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 and is filed under *ISSUES, January 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Teachers.Net Gazette Vol.10 No.1 January 2013

Harry & Rosemary Wong: Effective Teaching
Structure Will Motivate Students
Cover Story by Bill Page
Hurt People Hurt People
More Teacher Articles...
»Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys - A Conversation with Michael Thompson, Author of Raising CainNews Desk
»Understanding BoysMarvin Marshall
»Understanding AutismLeah Davies
»Reflecting Upon the Sandy Hook Shooting and the Leaders of Tomorrow - A Day in the Life of an Assistant PrincipalTodd Bloomer
»Memories of Being Read ToTodd R. Nelson
»5 Great Sites for Busy EducatorsMarjan Glavac
»3 Successful Beginning Teachers on How They Defied the OddsHarry K. & Rosemary Wong
»Rethinking HomeworkAlfie Kohn
»Homework as an Issue in American PoliticsNews Desk
»9 Pointers for Quick Differentiation of InstructionAlison Whiteley
»Differentiated Instruction and Ability GroupingNews Desk
»January Lessons, Activities: China, MLK, Jr., 100th Day, MORE!Teachers.Net Resources
»How to Triage Students' Needs While You Work with Small GroupsRick Morris
»How to Use Old Calendars and Christmas Cards for Learning and Craft ActivitiesTeachers.Net Community
»Hot TopicsNews Desk
»LOOK! Spider Predators, Arctic Beauty, Viral Videos, Gangnam Style in Prison!News Desk
»Vintage Chatboard WisdomTeachers.Net Community
»Teaching Teens About Climate Change, Health - Free New H.S. CurriculumNews Desk
»Apple Seeds Quotes for EducatorsBarb Stutesman
»Today is... Special Days to Note During JanuaryRon Victoria
»Printable Aids for Prek - 12. FREE and Instantly AvailableNews Desk
»3 Attributes of a Great Principal (According to Teachers)Teachers.Net Community

By State
AL   AK   AZ   AR   CA   CO   CT   DE   DC   FL   GA   HI   ID   IL   IN   IA   KS   KY   LA    ME   MD   MA   MI   MN   MS   MO   MT   NE   NV   NH   NJ   NM   NY   NC   ND   OH   OK   OR   PA   RI   SC   SD   TN   TX   UT   VT     VA   WA   WV   WI   WY