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Countless terms have been used to explain the changes we’ve observed in our world’s environment: the term “climate change” has replaced “global warming,” which in turn replaced “greenhouse effect.” In this lesson, students will unravel the complexity of climate debate, and explore what they see as the future of our world’s environment.
Estimated Time: Two class periods
Level: 7th – 12th grade
Civil Dialogue & Critical Thinking
By the end of this lesson, students will have learned:
- Collaboration: students will work together and learn from each other through discussion
- Civil conversation and conflict resolution: students will learn how to listen, understand and respect one another’s views, especially when there are differences of opinion and background.
- Research and analysis: students will have a deeper understanding of different perspectives (including their own, their classmates, and the country at large) through researching and discussing
See how this program complies with Common Core standards.
Tools & Resources Provided By AS4S & Our Partners
- The Environment Topic Page on AllSides will give your students a good understanding of the background of this issue. AllSides Topic pages provide background information, current news and opinions, think tanks and more.
- The Think Tank Search on AllSides allows you to search through Think Tanks that represent different political perspectives.
- The AllSides Balanced Dictionary reveals how different people from across the political spectrum think and feel about the same term or issue. Utilize these terms: Climate Change, Carbon Footprint, Climate Skeptic / Climate Change Denier.
Suggested Curriculum / Class Plan
Homework Prior to Class
Students will spend 20-30 min looking at the most recent news about the Environment from different perspectives. Each student should come prepared to discuss their major takeaways.
If you’d like to have an in-class discussion, divide students into small groups, preferably with a mix of biases. (Educator may need to have students complete a simple bias quiz for homework 2 days prior so the Educator has a chance to evaluate relevant classroom biases, if a similar test has never been conducted previously.)
If you’d like to have an online discussion with a classroom that holds different political views, utilize the Mismatch platform.
Pick and choose from the following list of discussion questions, and give students time to discuss them in small groups. If time permits, also have students come back into a larger class-wide discussion to share their thoughts.
If the term for what people call “climate change” was a more perfect representation of what is really going on, what would that better term be, from your perspective? What surprises you the most about fellow students’ answers?
Climate change has happened before. Is what is happening now more important of just more of the same natural cycle?
Do you believe humans are to blame for the increase in greenhouse gases, said to cause climate change? Why or why not?
Imagine a future in which your expectations about climate change, whatever they are, have been proven correct. Looking back into the present, what one thing do you wish you had done differently? Now imagine the opposite future: one where your expectations have been completely overturned. What do you regret this time?
Are you an environmentalist? Why or why not? What does that mean you do or don’t do?
What does the word “environmentalist” mean to you? Can you name three things that the word represents to you?
Is the negative push-back to this word deserved, at all, in your opinion?
To those who have a negative view of this word: what, in your opinion, are they (self-proclaimed environmentalists) not understanding (that you do)? Alternatively, what are they understanding (that others do not)?
Would you call yourself a global warming denier, alarmist, skeptic, or believer? Or would some other term best describe your views?
How did you arrive at the views you now hold about global warming? On what evidence or sources do you base your opinion?
When people disagree with you about global warming, what do you say? How do you support your case? How do they?
Deeper Meaning questions:
How is the energy/power you use generated? What are your thoughts about this type of power?
Have you made any changes to the energy you use? Why?
What is energy security? How would we know we have it?
What are your concerns around the environment, as it relates to our energy types?
Final Questions to pose to students, either as homework or just as a wrap up:
What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here?
Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?
Optional Homework Assignments
- Have students write a 300 word reflection after the Climate Change class discussion — what did they learn? Did they have any interesting disagreements? Why do they think discussions about our environment matter?