Michigan teachers learn to use NCSE climate change resources

A driving question board from a recent NCSE event in Michigan.

A Driving Question Board from a recent professional learning experience for Michigan teachers led by NCSE staff.

Michigan teachers got a sneak peek at NCSE’s redesigned climate change resources using our new Story Short format at a workshop April 19 and 20, 2024. The workshop, titled "Resolving Misconceptions about Climate Change with Sound Science," addressed common misconceptions about climate change and prepared teachers to use evidence and NCSE’s no-conflict approach to help their students resolve these misconceptions.

The participants were primarily middle and high school science teachers, but we were excited to see non-science teachers join as well. These language arts and social studies teachers wanted to deepen their understanding of climate change to address it within their content areas effectively.

In order to plan for the workshop, we asked participants to share their most significant challenges in teaching about climate change. Teachers shared a range of concerns around misconceptions and climate change denial, including “keeping students focused on evidence over feelings” and addressing “preset notions and opinions that are not swayed by scientific evidence.” One teacher shared, “I struggle with what is factual and what is not. There is a lot of information out there, and I don't talk about climate change very much in class because I want to make sure that I am always telling students the most up-to-date and factual information possible.” We used these responses to tailor the workshop to the needs of the participants.

On Friday, I led teachers through NCSE’s new Climate Change in Your Backyard Story Short to learn about the relationship between climate change and extreme weather. The teachers experienced the newly streamlined lessons through a student lens and then applied their learning to a place-based example to explain how climate change is affecting snowfall in Michigan. In the afternoon, Director of Education Lin Andrews facilitated reflection and discussion on research-based practices for addressing climate change in the classroom.

On Saturday, teachers considered the sources of misconceptions about climate change and the drivers behind climate change denial. They also learned that climate anxiety is increasing among young people and how a solutions-focused approach can address students’ fears and empower them to take action. The teachers engaged in activities from our new Sustainable Climate Solutions Story Short and were introduced to our new DataWISE tool for data and media literacy.

As part of a survey after the workshop was completed, all participants shared that the experience helped them to address the challenges they face in the classroom. One teacher said, “I feel much more confident about eliciting and addressing student misconceptions. I also feel much better about handling student misconceptions that arise from scientific [misunderstanding] and cultural, political, and social reasons.” Another said of the workshop, “It helped my confidence level in understanding the topic of climate change.” Teachers especially appreciated NCSE’s BRAVE classroom approach to reduce conflict and our new Story Short format, which provides flexibility while addressing NGSS performance expectations.

This professional learning experience was the kickoff to a series of workshops NCSE staff will be leading throughout the remainder of 2024, helping teachers across the country to address their students' misconceptions about climate change, evolution, and the nature of science.

Wendy Johnson.
Short Bio

Wendy Johnson is a Science Education Specialist with NCSE’s Supporting Teachers Program.