Schooling U.S. Teachers on Climate Education: Why It Matters


The other day, two more alarming statistics about climate change appeared like holes forming in the ozone layer. They came from a study published in Science called, “Climate confusion among U.S. teachers.” They were:

  1. Teachers only spend one or two hours of class time on climate change education
  2. Half of U.S. teachers do not believe that climate change is anthropogenic

When I first saw these statistics, I couldn’t believe them. I went through several stages of emotions.

  1. Incredulity: This can’t possibly be true!
  2. Anger: You’ve got to be kidding me!
  3. Tentative Belief: Ok maybe, but how?!  
  4. Unsatisfied Acceptance: Ugh, fine. But what can we do to change this?

In an age when water scarcity, extreme weather events, crop failure, and rising oceans jeopardize the lives of millions of children, it is only fair that we are taught why these issues arise. Climate change education should be a requirement by law in all schools, whether you’re a second grader in Miami facing rising sea levels or a Californian high school junior facing drought. Climate education is vital to the sustainability of this movement, because the more people know, the more people will act.

My own climate change education had a profound impact on my life. I want to share my experience with you, reader, in the hope that it will lead to greater change in climate change education.

My Climate Change Education

The day I walked into my eighth grade science teacher’s classroom was a day that changed my life forever. Ms. Annie Madden was my teacher – a jovial young woman with an affinity for green clothing and a desk plastered with an assortment of environmentally-messaged bumper stickers.

She was everybody’s best friend. Whenever you were in her presence, you would be laughing because of her good humor, or simply because she’s Melissa McCarthy’s doppelganger.

But more importantly, she was everybody’s favorite teacher. Why? Because she worked 110% everyday to teach us about solutions and chemical vs. physical changes and ecology. The most profound impact that she had on my education was the day she showed us The 11th Hour movie in class. You know how they say that humans are the most impressionable in their early teens? Well, I was so shocked and horrified by the movie, that I cried.

This was a turning point in my life. Until then, I hadn’t realized climate change was a thing. They say that the moment you grow up is when you stop thinking that the world revolves around you and gain some selflessness. In this sense, learning about the issues surrounding climate change made me grow up over the span of a few classes.

If I had never been in Ms. Madden’s class and had the climate change education that I did, I would not be writing this right now. Climate education is important because it can change lives that can change the course of the planet’s future.
Tweet why you care about climate change education in schools using the hashtag #whyclimatechangeedu!!

  • Dave Finnigan
    Posted at 12:19h, 29 March

    Alec – We have a one day program, Climate Change is Elementary, that has now been presented in 23 elementary schools in MA, CT, NY, NJ and MD and will be presented at a school in Colorado on April 22nd. After a day working with the kids and bringing them up to speed on the problem, we hold Family Night and the parents come to school with their kids to review and pledge to follow a Green Action Checklist This program could potentially be presented by high school or college students who I could train. By using the elementary schools as a platform we reach kids at a younger age and we get the whole family involved. Then every school that hosts our program would be able to go to their community leadership with the iMatter plan. Please get back to me on this.

    • Amanda
      Posted at 13:24h, 07 May

      Hi Dave, Sorry I was late in getting back to you on this! My name is Amanda, I wrote this piece, and am the Media Coordinator for the iMatter Youth Council. I’m very interested in your program and how it went! I’m sorry we couldn’t immediately follow-up to this awesome event, butwe would love to collaborate in the future! My email: