NCSE and Raven the Science Maven: A collaboration to help new generations teach climate change

Raven "The Science Maven" Baxter

NCSE aims to ensure that accurate, effective climate change education is available to every student across the country. To achieve that goal, we need to reach and support teachers who may be hesitant to teach climate change or who feel they lack the skills to teach it well. That’s why for Earth Week 2021, NCSE is partnering with Raven Baxter (also known as Raven the Science Maven) — TikTok sensation and multi-talented Ph.D. candidate — to create social media climate education videos aimed at millennial and Generation Z teachers.

A former classroom teacher, Baxter has become famous for her science rap parodies such as “Wipe It Down” and for communicating the science of antibodies. Her gift for science content creation led her to be named one of Fortune magazine’s “40 Under 40” for 2020.

Baxter is excited to collaborate with NCSE on this project, in which a new TikTok video will be released each of the five days of Earth Week, beginning April 19, 2021. The videos (which will also be posted at NCSE’s YouTube channel and publicized via our Twitter and Facebook channels) humorously provide helpful and evidence-based best practices for incorporating climate change into the curriculum. NCSE hopes to share the videos with as many teachers as possible during the week, particularly those who might be hesitant to teach climate change. Please help us spread the word by sharing our videos via your own social media channels using the hashtag #TeachClimate.

“Every teacher should be teaching with a goal of having students leave their classroom equipped to think critically about the world that they live in,” Baxter says. “Teaching about climate change and equipping students with critical thinking skills to process their knowledge about climate change is one of those essential duties. Climate change is an issue that affects not just one person, and not just humans, but almost every aspect of our society and our planet.”

On TikTok, everything has to fit within 60 seconds, so messages have to be delivered succinctly. However, NCSE Director of Teacher Support Lin Andrews finds the constraints of the medium to be rewarding.

“TikTok’s limited time frame really encourages you to get to the heart of your message quickly, but with maximum impact,” she explains. “It is also perfect for a campaign like ours, since we want to reach as many teachers as we can — and we know many teachers these days are on TikTok — throughout Earth Week, but in a fun and non-threatening way.”

Adds Baxter, “[On TikTok] I've learned that there is so much more space to occupy in the quest to make science more accessible and engaging for the public! TikTok and YouTube are the perfect creative spaces to test out new ways to reach new learners.”

The videos take a light-hearted approach to a serious subject. For example, one video encourages teachers to “Flip the Genre” of climate change, teaching a positive, solutions-focused approach instead of one based in doom and gloom. To deliver this message, Baxter first starts teaching climate change using horror movie tropes, including references to The Shining and Friday the 13th (including an oblique allusion to the famous hockey stick graph). After seeing the terrified faces of her students (all also played by Baxter), she switches to teaching climate change as an action-adventure movie, reliving the opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and celebrating with her students a narrow victory over the impending threat of climate change. It’s a simple video, but it conveys the importance of consistent, positive messaging in teaching climate change.

While these videos help teachers to “level up” their climate change teaching, they also connect to NCSE’s new climate change lessons, which focus on inquiry-based learning, engage directly with the evidence, and integrate fully with the Next Generation Science Standards. (The first two lessons will also be unveiled during Earth Week, with the rest to follow soon after.) Baxter’s video that suggests teachers shouldn’t fall into the trap of allowing students to debate whether climate change is real, for example, includes resources to help students identify faulty data, and uses ice cores to assess the evidence for anthropogenic climate change directly — all features of the NCSE climate change lessons.

Andrews hopes that teachers who appreciate the TikTok videos will take additional steps to look at NCSE’s lessons and ultimately become more involved in our educational community.

Kate Carter
Short Bio

Kate Carter is Director of Community Science Education at NCSE.