Practice Brief 78 -- Topics: Instruction

Navigating the Political Dimensions of Climate Change Teaching and Learning

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Why it Matters to You
  • Teachers should use socio-historical approaches in science teaching to help students develop a nuanced, complex understanding of global climate change.
  • District Staff & PD Providers should support students and educators to develop critical thinking by using scientific knowledge and practices in authentic local contexts impacted by climate change.
  • School Leaders should communicate with teachers, students, and families about the socio-historical nature of STEM, particularly about global climate change and the role of education in disrupting it.

What Is The Issue?

As educators consider teaching about global climate change, many express concern about the “political” nature of the subject. This concern is often rooted in a belief that STEM subjects—within which much of climate change learning is situated—are somehow apolitical or value-free in nature. To unpack these concerns, educators should explore: (1) How is STEM inherently political?, (2) What do we mean by “political” in the context of climate change learning?, and (3) How do we support youth in developing STEM knowledge and critical thinking practices—rather than imposing belief systems on young people?



Reflection Questions

  • In what ways is the term “political” used to advance or hinder students from taking action in response to their learning about climate change?
  • How should students’ own questions and learning about climate change lead them to engage with community beyond the school building?

Things To Consider

What do we mean by “political” when discussing climate change?

How do we develop shared STEM knowledge and critical thinking practices around climate change?

Attending to Equity

Recommended Actions You Can Take


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Work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License. Others may adapt with attribution. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Opinions expressed are not those of any funding agency.