Resources to Prepare Student for Climate Change

Cindy Shellito ( is editor in chief of In the Trenches and an associate professor of meteorology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

Weather and climate figure prominently in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for both elementary and secondary students. For example, curricula informed by NGSS would challenge elementary students to make weather observations and begin to see connections between life and climate. In middle school, they would be expected to explore the evidence for rising temperatures in the past century. In high school, the NGSS recommend that students analyze climate data and climate model output to make forecasts for the future and discuss the relationships between various Earth systems and their responses to climate change. NGSS also offers many opportunities to integrate climate change with studies of other sciences. Many of the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) in the physical and life sciences (e.g., conservation of energy, electromagnetic radiation, and ecosystem dynamics) relate directly or indirectly to understanding climate change. (The full set of standards is available online at: While students now enrolled in secondary and college-level courses have not benefited from curricula shaped by NGSS, instructors at these levels have wealth of online resources to draw upon to provide students with key conceptual knowledge and skills that will enable them to make choices about climate and the environment as fully informed citizens. The following set of resources may provide inspiration and some useful starting points for lessons, activities, and articles related to climate change.

Teaching-specific ideas, activities, and resources that are ready-to-use

  • CLEAN/Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network ( If you are planning to introduce climate into your course soon, this should be your first stop. You'll find resources, guidance, and a network of other professionals dedicated to improving climate literacy at all levels.
  • Earthlabs ( is a set of rigorous, online Earth science labs (with a focus on climate) that aids educators in developing Earth science as a high school capstone course. Most of the materials are also appropriate for introductory college level courses.
  • Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future (InTeGrate) ( Many of the modules and instructional resources in this collection of classroom-tested resources for teaching about the Earth from an interdisciplinary perspective integrate some component of climate or environmental change.
  • For a good example of a project that gets students to develop videos about climate change, see the article on page 4 by Juliette Rooney-Varga. If you would like to create your own videos to introduce students to new material, to reinforce old material, or to use in a "flipped classroom," see: Using Videos in Teaching (

Reading material, instructional resources and real-time data available at federal agencies

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/NOAA ( is a good starting point for having students use current climate data to answer questions about climate change. In addition to news on climate, the main page features an interactive Global Climate Dashboard with quick access to current data. A map application allows students to view more detailed and local data. For students working on more advanced projects that might require local data, NOAA's National Climate Data Center ( is the place to look.
  • NASA's Global Climate Change ( website provides news, background reading, fantastic visuals, and current data. If you want your students to move beyond the Earth to explore other planets, don't miss NASA's Eyes on the Solar System (, an interactive online tool for a virtual exploration of the solar system.

Resources for prompting discussion and generating interest in the intersections between science and society:

  • Yale Project on Climate Change Communication ( explores the public perception of climate change and issues involved in communicating climate change. Explore Global Warming's Six Americas to find out where you and your students stand on your perceptions on climate change. It might be particularly interesting in a large class to have each student take the Six America's quiz at and compare class results with the national average.
  • The Climate Voices Science Speakers Network ( will put you in touch with someone who can help can help you connect your students with climate scientists. The site features profiles and contact information for scientists around the country who are ready to talk to the public about climate change. If it's not possible to bring someone in for a visit, you might consider arranging a Skype Q&A with a climate expert.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists Global Warming ( is a good starting point for discussing the intersection between science and politics. Articles are appropriate for secondary and college-level students and are well cited.
  • has been providing commentary on developing stories in climate science for more than 10 years. The blog, authored by working climate scientists, focuses on the scientific issues, rather than the political or economic aspects of climate change. The advantage of having students read excerpts from a blog rather than a published article or other site lies in the fact that students can see the value of discussion in science, as each blog entry is followed by discussion. It provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of scientific discourse in the process of science.