Climate change protests by young people
28 May 2019

Primary children are among many who have been participating in the school climate strikes in the UK, Europe and across the world. These have occurred in 110 countries to date and have involved more than 1.4 million school students, according to reports. There are many news sites reporting school students’ climate change protests, including these:

Climate change an important concern in the primary humanities. It is about much more than its science, since climate changes are having a major impact through the impact of weather events, ecologies and oceans on people’s lives, livelihoods and leisure globally. These impacts are likely to increase. While it is an important topic in geography, it has significant dimensions historically and in religious education and citizenship. It involves children developing, for example, understanding about physical and human geographical processes, change and impact in and across our world, affecting what we value, and how we relate to and support each other locally as well as those never met. It helps children develop knowledge about the world, examine values and what matters, and consider what we think about what is happening.

Primary children are aware of what is said about climate change by scientists and its deniers. An important challenge in investigating climate change in primary school is to find out what it is about, how and why it is occurring, why it is considered important by very many in societies around the world and in education, what seem to be the various effects it is having in different places, and what these effects might be in future. Examples include increasing droughts in some places and flooding in others, declining or increasing rainfall, rising and heating oceans affecting islands and coasts, and the impact on many, many communities and environments. Its study helps children explore our world, consider cultural meanings and impacts, what we need to understand, ways we might act to mitigate its effects and even contribute to decisions that will improve our lives. Studies involve examining why it is controversial, the challenges climate change poses and how we each might contribute to mitigation and coping with its effects. Recognising why and enquiring into the variety of reasons children and adults are so concerned about climate change that they take action on the streets to get their voices heard is important for primary children since they will live out their lives in what is predicted to be a world of demanding natural and human-induced changes and challenges.

Climate change should be explored as a key topic within the primary curriculum. Proposals have been voiced about making it part of the primary school curriculum:

If you want to know more about climate change, a rounded view is provided cheaply and accessibly in:

Mark Maslin (2014) Climate Change, a Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

There are many other publications and sites which provide ideas about teaching about climate change in primary classrooms, including:

Professor Simon Catling

Professor Emeritus of Primary Education,

School of Education, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

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