Lesson Plan – Climate Refugees

Climate Refugees – Lesson Plan

The above PDF links to a teacher-friendly copy of my lesson plan. A more student-friendly, interactive version is featured in the iBook.

The curriculum standard most strongly addressed in this lesson is Standard E: A culturally-responsive curriculum situates local knowledge and actions in a global context. A curriculum that meets this standard:

  1. encourages students to consider the inter-relationship between their local circumstances and the global community;
  2. conveys to students that every culture and community contributes to, at the same time that it receives from the global knowledge base; and
  3. prepares students to “think globally, act locally.”

This lesson introduces students to the idea of climate change through a local context by focusing in on the community of Kivalina, Alaska. It then expands the concept by introducing climate-threatened communities in Louisiana, Fiji, Greenland, and Solomon Islands.

Groups of students will focus in on these individual communities and discuss the local problems and potential solutions. For instance, Alaskan communities have worked to locate land for relocation and then attempted to source government funding for the move, which has been incredibly difficult to find. Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles has become the first U.S. community to receive such funding for climate-related reasons. Smaller island nations have purchased land in other countries and attempted to find international funding.

When groups bring the communities they’ve focused on to a class-wide discussion, it will create a conversation that has a global focus but uses local perspectives. The different approaches taken by these communities bring up an essential question: since climate change is a global problem with unequal local implications, who is responsible for finding a solution? Is it a global responsibility? Is it the responsibility of countries who are most responsible for emissions? This is a fascinating discussion that should bring out many different opinions. I think it meets all three of Cultural Standard E’s requirements.

11 thoughts on “Lesson Plan – Climate Refugees”

  1. Awesome, Tim! A great way to get people talking about climate change with how it affects Alaskan at the local level.

  2. Tim- I really like how much space/time you give students in your lesson for discussion. I am excited to see this lesson in the final iBook because I think linking to all the articles will make it really easy to use. I appreciate how your lesson meets cultural curriculum standard A “situates local knowledge and actions in a global context.” The idea of “who is responsible for solving climate issues?” is complex, but so worth debating! The lesson really integrates science, language arts and social studies. I really like that you are using the student research and discussion as a jump off point to inspire activism through letter writing. I used to be an intern for US Senator Begich and wrote SOOOO many constituent response letters, but not many students ever wrote in! Politicians are basically required to respond to constituent concerns and I think many students would be excited to get notes back from their local/or state representatives/senators.

  3. Tim,
    You have great accommodations for students, you’ve incorporated the community, and you use sense of place as a focus for your lesson. I can tell you’ve thought about the dynamics of class discussion and group work while using different styles of teaching. Your guidelines for seminar practice should be posted up in your classroom! When I first read your essential question “who is responsible for climate-threatened communities?” I thought that might be too simple of a question, but when I read your lesson plan I realized the vastness of the question-affecting local and global communities.
    -Lindsay

  4. Tim,

    I loved your “global focus with local perspectives” concept. It is obvious that you have put a lot of work into a very relevant, engaging lesson plan. I would love to hear about this concept of climate refugees- I had no idea!

    Great job!

  5. Nice plan! I especially like how you are asking the student to look into different regions from around the world. It is important for people to see that large problems and issues are not always local. By discussing the local impact, you are placing context around global warming, which is key to students learning.

  6. Tim,
    Great lesson plan! I like how you link the place based experience with a problem that is globally relevant. Your resources are well chosen,and the group talk will engage the students to dig deeper on the topic.

  7. I did something similar to climate change as well. I love your essential question! It really is timeless. Being able to talk about climate change with local references really helps applying the knowledge worldwide. I will definitely refer to your page for more references when I do my lesson!

  8. I really liked how this lesson goes way beyond science; students who may not care about science or environmental issues will come away from this lesson with an appreciation for the way our lives are impacted by the environment and, thus, how science affects every individual.
    I like how you started with villages in Alaska looking for land and then showed students that this is an international problem; very effective way of using curriculum standard E.

  9. This is really good, especially with how important of an issue climate change is. I think you approach the issue in a creative and interesting way.

  10. I am a big fan of this lesson plan, and more specifically, what I like about it is it gives people the framework to talk about Climate Change. It is happening in Alaska more rapidly then anywhere else in the rest of the US. The examples you give, Kivalina, Shish, are so applicable and a great jumping off point to go from to talk about it on a global scale. Good Work!

  11. Thanks for sharing, Tim. I think it is awesome that your lesson shows movement from local/regional to state-wide and global in terms of its focus on an issue that is pervasive at all levels. I remember once two students that I observed and how one was saying that global warming does not exist because it is so hot where they live, and the other one saying that they cannot understand why their hometown seems to be so polluted all the time. I think it is difficult for people to compare personal problems to social issues, and see how everything is connected. In your lesson, I especially like how you ask “who is responsible?” This makes me think of geographical racism. I think you might find that interesting. I was once told that in almost any city, the water treatment facility/reservoir is located in the most affluent neighborhood, whereas the waste treatment/dump facilities are located in the most poverty-stricken neighborhood. Who benefits from what? hmm…

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