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It’s the #1 Environmental Issue

Purdue University Professors Dr. Daniel Shepardson and Andrew Hirsch believe that we need to do more when it comes to educating K-12 students about climate change.

Shepardson, who is with Purdue’s Department of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Science says currently climate change is not well covered in classrooms.

“It tends to be addressed in a piecemeal fashion,” Shepardson says students may touch on it a bit in earth science or biology class, but that’s not enough. “There’s not really a clearly defined conceptual framework to help teachers to teach about climate change.”

That’s why Shepardson and his colleague, Hirsch recently co-authored “Teaching Climate Change – What educators should know and can do in American Educator.

They argue that climate change is the #1 environmental issue. “If we don’t address a warming climate then we are going to find ourselves having to deal with extreme heat, extreme storm events and food security may become a problem,” says Hirsch.

Battle through the political storm

For some teachers, educating students about climate change can be a political minefield.

“Regardless of whether you accept the fact that changing climate is driven by manmade activities, the climate is nonetheless changing, says Hirsch. “Farmers can tell you that, insects know that, birds know that. There are quantifiable measures that need to be considered. It’s not a matter of politics, it’s a matter of adapting the situation that is changing.”

However, the pair say that educators shouldn’t really open the classroom floor for debate on climate change. They know it’s common for teachers to present both the scientific perspective and the skeptic’s perspective on climate change, but they argue that allowing debate is a mistake.

This is because there is a scientific consensus on climate change. “We don’t debate other science concepts like photosynthesis or earth system science,” says Hirsch.  “It’s accepted science and that’s what should be taught.”

Hirsch says the debate should be about how we deal with the issue. “That’s where teachers can engage students in debating the ways we mitigate and adapt to our changing climate.

To hear our full interview with Hirsch and Shepardson listen to Episode 140 of the Class Dismissed Podcast.

You can listen to the latest episode of Class Dismissed on iTunes here.

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