Earth Day: How Climate Change is Taught in Canada
A growing number of Canadians understand that climate change is happening and that, together, we can take measures to mitigate its impact. In a recent study by Lakehead University, researchers found that while 85% of Canadians are concerned about climate change, just over half of us feel we truly understand the issue. Many believe that climate change should be part of the school curriculum. So how are Canadian schools stacking up when it comes to educating students about climate change?
Opportunities for educators
Teachers say that instructing students about climate change allows them to learn about social justice and world issues. Climate change education can also introduce critical thinking skills and action-oriented learning. However, there can be obstacles to overcome when teaching this modern-day subject. About 46% of students understand that climate change is caused by humans but are unclear on pathways for reducing or mitigating the effects, creating an opportunity in the curriculum to improve science literacy among students.
There are areas for improvement in the Canadian education system when it comes to climate change education. Providing teachers with necessary skills to teach the topic, allocating enough time to integrate climate change education into the curriculum, and ensuring they have the resources to teach the subject matter properly are all essential. Teachers have also identified professional development, enhanced curriculum policy, and more information about the politics and economics of climate change as resources they require to enhance today’s climate change education.
How provincial curriculums stack up
Another study has found that the quality of climate change education very much depends on the province. The study’s authors argue that basic climate science literacy requires students to understand the following three notions: that climate change is real, there is an overwhelming scientific consensus and that it is caused by humans. Students should also grasp that climate change is harmful, but there are steps that can be taken to mitigate this.
Some basics of climate science are taught across the country, but coverage of the topic is uneven. Interestingly, Saskatchewan, a province with a large energy sector, comes out on top for having full coverage in its curriculum for teaching climate science. Manitoba, on the other hand, encourages students to debate whether climate change is real, while Newfoundland and Labrador’s curriculum encourages students to debate the causes of global warming.
Climate science literacy outside the classroom
Though climate change education can vary across the country, there are signs of a national standard for climate education. Some province’s curriculums require updates, with researchers in both studies stating that climate change literacy needs to be part of the foundation of education across the board to help create a fuller understanding for students.
Students should understand that solutions can be found. While environmental sciences are taught in schools to varying degrees, learning can continue outside the walls of a classroom at all ages, from appreciation of the natural environment to volunteering with local groups. Many organisations provide educational resources, such as CBEEN, or Learning for a Sustainable Future(LSF), a non-profit Canadian organization created to integrate sustainability into the education system.
The federal government has also undertaken initiatives to help with climate change education. The Climate Action Fund, created in 2018, provides support for projects including student and youth projects, that raise awareness of climate change thus encouraging others to take action in supporting the country’s climate goals.
Teaching children about the foundations of the science of climate change can help them be active players in reducing activities that contribute to the climate crisis. Ultimately, education in climate sciences will encourage children to become the problem-solvers and leaders of the future.