Take a look at the national curriculum for science and you will find surprisingly few mentions of climate change.
During key stages one and two, taught to children aged four to 11, it specifies only that pupils should “begin to think about the positive and negative effects of scientific and technological developments on the environment”.
It is not until key stage three, taught from ages 11 to 14, that the curriculum encourages pupils to think more specifically about “ways in which living things and the environment can be protected, and the importance of sustainable development”, and “about the interplay between empirical questions, evidence and scientific explanations using historical and contemporary examples such as global warming”.
During key stage four, taught from ages 14 to 16, pupils do learn about “how the impact of humans on the environment depends on social and economic factors, including population size, industrial processes and levels of consumption and waste and the importance of sustainable development”.
And they also learn at this stage about “how the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans have changed over time”.
But the entire climate change program of study for key stages one to four mentions “global warming” only once – hardly an environmentalist’s manifesto.
As one science teacher who wished to remain anonymous told BusinessGreen, the science curriculum is focused around the teaching of method and analysis, rather than inserting foregone conclusions about climate change into children’s minds.
“We use a scheme of work that is based around making them ask questions rather than teaching them scientific facts,” she said.
“So we may show graphs of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the years, and the various factors that could affect those levels, and let them try to draw conclusions of their own just as a scientist in the real world would.”
Most of the debate over Oates’s comments has failed to address one key issue: the government can remove all traces of climate change from the science curriculum if it likes, but pupils will still learn about it in geography lessons.
In fact, a revamp of the curriculum four years ago saw changes that gave geography teachers more scope to bring in topical issues relevant to the changing world, including specifically global warming and climate change.
The changes came after a survey of 11 to 17 year-olds found that half wanted to spend more time learning about climate change at school.
One geography teacher told BusinessGreen that his pupils like learning about climate change because they know it is something they hear about outside the classroom.
Relating knowledge relayed inside the class room to real-life issues that interest children is one of the holy grails of teaching.
“What’s more, it presents huge scope for holistic learning about an issue that transcends subject borders,” he said. “Climate change crops up in geography and science, yes, but it also crops up in business studies, economics, English, politics and philosophy.”
What’s interesting about this is that climate change is not a topic mentioned on the curriculum of many of those subjects; teachers just use it as an aid because it is a relevant issue that pupils will have heard about.
So what differences would the changes make? CONTINUE READING
She teaches at California State University, East Bay and is known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert. She helps children and adults solve learning problems with her Amazing Grades Study Skills System and is an expert in learning styles.
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