How some NH science teachers are implementing climate change into their curriculum | New Hampshire Public Radio – New Hampshire Public Radio
A few years ago, Pembroke science teacher Ian West decided he didn’t want to teach his sixth graders about climate change by showing them a graph. He wanted students to understand it for themselves.
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He started to implement a curriculum that allows students to see climate change’s impact, one classroom experiment at a time. In one, students drop alka seltzer into bottles of water to release carbon dioxide, which then travels through a tube into a nearby chamber. Before their eyes, the temperature in the nearby chamber increases.
Under a heat lamp, a bottle with alka seltzer releases carbon dioxide into one bottle, mimicking the effect of greenhouse gases on air temperature and causing it to heat up faster than the bottle that doesn’t get extra carbon dioxide.
In another, students wrap emissions bags around the tailpipes of cars with different levels of fuel efficiency. Once the cars turn on, students measure how long it takes for the bags to fill up with exhaust.
“Hands-on experiments are the things that all of us remember from school,” said West, who teaches at Three Rivers School. “If the learning can really be embedded in that activity, there’s a much better chance they’re going to remember that down the line.”
Most people in New Hampshire know that climate change is happening, mainly caused by humans.
And the state has adopted school science standards that include guidance to teach about climate change. But many people – including kids whose lives will be shaped by climate change – don’t understand the science behind it, nor what they can do to mitigate it. Teachers like West are hoping to change that.
After finishing up the experiment with Alka Seltzer, West’s students plot a line graph — showing the relationship between carbon dioxide and rising temperatures, based on their data. Emmah Kuhlman, 11, said she’s starting to grasp why more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere means warmer winters.
“It makes me feel curious if there is going to be no snow,” she said. “It makes me sad because I do really like snow,” she said.
Snow activities bring joy and essential economic activity to winters here. But as winters warm, communities are having to cancel traditions like ice hockey and pond parties, and without aggressive action on climate change, projections show most downhill ski resorts here could shut down in these kids’ lifetimes.
West tries to steer clear of political discussions in his classroom. But once students start learning about climate change, they often ask what adults and elected leaders are doing to address it.
“It’s difficult to stand in front of 11-year-olds and say that there are grown adults that do not acknowledge really fundamental basic science,” West said.
This grim reality can be overwhelming to students. But among teachers, there is growing interest to make lessons about climate change age-appropriate and fun.
One of the organizations spearheading these efforts is the New Hampshire Energy Education Project (NHEEP). Over the past five years, NHEEP has worked with 600 teachers to expand curriculum and training for lessons related to energy, climate change, and conservation.
Teachers trained by NHEEP connect global climate change to phenomena in students’ backyards. Elementary schoolers …….