Concise Climate Change, for a Change

February 25, 2012 at 6:06 PM 4 comments

I saw a painting of one black dot on a white canvas, hanging in the Tate Modern in London years ago. So annoying, it felt like the artist was mocking the viewer. But I’ve been thinking about it ever since (on and off). Was it really a ‘one in the eye’ for the art world done by a cynical charlatan, or perhaps, the end result of a lifetime of experimentation and effort, with the artist finally concluding that a dot was the perfect painting, the summary of a life’s work?

Objective for the Energy Opportunities Project: To inspire kids to take informed and effective action to minimize and/or adapt to climate change and the end of cheap oil. 

After the over-doing it sob stories, the too-long, Barber’s Adagio slide show of sadness, and enormous, interconnected cause-and-effect flow charts, I found NASA’s 8 minute explanation of climate change and used it, in conjunction with white board play, Concept Construxions and an old-fashioned work sheet to do a way better job than usual with this tortured topic. In only two lessons, WITH some laughs and a lighter touch.

Here’s how:

1. “What do you know about climate change so far? Draw a pic and/or write a few words on your dry-erase boards.” (They love these out of all proportion. Have to take away the boards if I want them to do anything else or it’s all covered in heart signs and horsey drawings and no one’s paid one bit of attention to say, chemistry.)

2. “If you mentioned ____ hold your board up for everyone to see.” (the blank could be CO2, ice melting or of course, the sad polar bear clinging to the last ice cube). It’s quicker this way than having every group report out. You could also have kids parade their boards across the front of the class.

This was a very fun, formative assessment where I was reminded of the persistent confusion between global warming and the ozone hole.

3. Impromptu lesson around the class whiteboard on the difference between the greenhouse effect and the hole in the ozone layer. Had them erase it from their own white boards so they might erase it from their brains too. (I know there IS a connection – ozone and CFCs are also greenhouse gases but last time I looked, air is not leaking out of the ozone hole. The other persistent misconception is that trash is somehow connected to global warming.)

4. Watched the NASA “Warming World” clip with a EOP Climate Change Note sheet. Then again as they actually took notes. Really helps to let them just watch for interest and enjoyment the first time and THEN take notes second. A special ed./504 accomodation that works better for everyone.

Next day,

5. We constructed a web of cause and effect around global warming, incorporating all the stuff they’d learned (or not) from the day before. Again included ozone, cfc and uv light cards and put them way off to one side.

6. The effects of global warming, ouch, when they thought about them even a bit. Horror.

Instead of going down the plug hole, I asked “Why is it useful to pay attention to the scientific evidence, regardless of whether it comes to an inconvenient conclusion?” And that brought up what we’d discussed in the Socrates Cafe around truth.

Hit on the analogy of why learn the unpleasant truth that you have say, cancer? Then it’s more obvious that the truth means you can perhaps do something to cure it, or to prevent the disease in others. And the Earth is running a fever right now. Maybe there’s something to be done to help, or to at least deal with the effects.

Extra credit to the rescue: find a cool YouTube clip on an energy opportunity. We are not downcast! we are set up for taking some action! Or I am. I really hope I fanned the embers of interest and inspiration better this year. We’ll see on Monday.

Meanwhile, next door:

My wonderful colleague Greta put together this incredibly memorable experiment/demo that actually shows the greenhouse effect:


Entry filed under: Critical Thinking, Energy Opportunities Project, Environmental Education, Inquiry and critical thinking. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

EnFORCING Actual Thinking: 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 minutes Kids’ Concepts of Atoms and Playing the Rutherford Gold Foil Game…

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