Designing and Evaluating Evidence-Based Climate Change Instruction
The purpose of the Designing and Evaluating Instructional Materials Checklist is to encourage and promote the use of evidence-based high quality instructional materials. It is intended to serve as a screening tool that educators can use to quickly determine if new or existing instructional materials are worthy of deeper analysis. This checklist is not intended to replace a more thorough evaluation of curriculum that can be conducted with the EQuIP Rubric by Achieve or EdReports.
The goal is for educators to utilize instructional materials that meet all the indicators listed under each criterion in order to provide the best possible educational opportunities for all students.
Standards-Based: Are the lessons in accordance with the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and do they promote interdisciplinary connections?
- Advances students toward proficiency of standards consistent with grade level or grade band expectations.
- Incorporates content-area practices within instructional activities.
- Provides opportunities for integration of 21st Century Skills and Themes (NJAC 6A:8-1.3), Career Readiness, Life Literacies & Key Skills and Social and Emotional Learning Competencies.
Student-Centered: Do the instructional strategies and resources promote independent learning and ownership of the learning process?
- Engages students in active inquiry-based investigations and/or authentic problem-solving learning.
- Creates a classroom culture where students interact and share ideas, provide feedback and/or come to consensus.
- Provides students with opportunities for choice and voice (e.g., process by which they learn, products they create to demonstrate learning).
- Requires the integration of student ideas and contributions that utilizes student strengths to enhance learning (asset-based approach).
- Utilizes learning tasks that are intentionally designed to eliminate barriers to learning and support the needs of all students (e.g., universal design for learning).
- Provides opportunities for scaffolding and “just in time” learning to support diverse learners.
Action-Oriented: Do the lessons focus on a compelling, authentic and engaging problem that inspires students to take action in response to real-world challenges?
- Addresses a real-world problem that is driven by a compelling question and is relevant to the lives of the students.
- Provides students with opportunities to engage and collaborate with community-based organizations, agencies and/or individuals with expertise as part of the learning process.
- Encourages students to take action in response to a real-world problem (e.g., share information with an audience, develop an advocacy plan).
- Provides opportunities for students to receive feedback and reflect upon their learning process throughout the unit.
Culturally Responsive: Do the lessons require the activation and incorporation of students’ cultural background knowledge to build new knowledge and skills?
- Includes student created questions and considers students’ background knowledge in unit and lesson design.
- Integrates opportunities for student reflection.
- Allows learning experiences to be customized in connection with students’ homes and communities.
- Encourages student's perspective-taking and empathy toward people from backgrounds, cultures and contexts different from their own.
- Considers the educator's perspective, lens and biases when addressing students and families from different backgrounds.
- Promotes high expectations for all students based on rigorous standards.
- Uses socially just materials reflective of diverse cultures.
Inclusive: Do the lessons include resources created by authors of diverse backgrounds as well as include the expertise, contributions and perspectives of diverse cultures, abilities and identities?
- Integrates the perspectives of people of diverse abilities, economic classes, ethnicities, genders, identities and races.
- Includes primary and secondary sources that reflect the voices of the people and cultures being represented.
- Ensures sources are accurate, timely, credible and offer varied perspectives.
- Examines all sources for issues of bias to develop source analysis skills.
Effective practices in climate change education focus on solutions. Instruction should:
- Be personally relevant and engaging;
- Build students’ problem-solving skills and engineering design in the classroom and community;
- Help students construct their own ideas; and
- Engage students with climate solutions experts (Rusky, A., Morrison, D., & Bell. P., 2021).
The following resources provide information and resources to support evidence-based climate change instructional practices:
- Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) National Strategic Planning Framework for the United States (Bowman, T., Morrison, D. (2020)
The Strategic Planning Framework offers specific recommendations in the six ACE elements: education, training, public awareness, public access to information, public participation and international cooperation. The recommendations are designed to overcome structural and often unintended obstacles, while making the most of opportunities to improve the efficacy and alignment of climate education, communication, and outreach programs, policies and initiatives. Information about the recommendations for educators can be found on page 25.
- Clime Time
The ClimeTime website provides a wide array of resources for educators, including instructional materials, lesson plans, professional learning experiences and case studies that describe how climate change education is being implemented in schools and communities in Washington. This website is maintained by the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in collaboration with the UW Institute for Science + Math Education.
- Learning Through Citizen Science: Enhancing Opportunities by Design Report (National Research Council, 2018)
This report, prepared by National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, provides useful information about the type of strategies found in citizen science experiences that lead to authentic learning.
The Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) National Strategic Planning Framework for the United States (Bowman & Morrison, 2020) enables states, cities, schools, Tribal Nations, national and community-based non-profits, and private sector organizations to improve the efficacy and alignment of climate education, communication, and outreach programs, policies and initiatives. This webpage provides a brief summary and recommendations for K–12 education as written by the contributors of the ACE Framework.
The growing youth climate movement, which has been largely coordinated and expanded through social media, calls for accelerated action and reform of climate-related learning opportunities. The redesign of educational resources, however, requires more than a focus on climate science. Young people need, and in some cases are calling for, active, solutions-oriented science, social studies and media literacy education that emphasizes systems-thinking approaches to learning about environmental and social interconnections as part of broader civics education.
Recommendations for Climate Change Education
- Integrate climate change and climate solutions into all academic disciplines, not only science, technology, education, and math (STEM) fields. Integrating climate relevance into all disciplines supports education for climate action.
- Increase funding and organizational support for interdisciplinary climate education.
- Build data literacy into K–12 education as a fundamental skill for informed decision-making.
- Incentivize school districts to appoint climate justice coordinators to increase the capacity of educators and ensure that climate and climate justice curricula are implemented. Coordinators can foster partnerships between K–12, higher, and informal education, and community-based advocacy organizations.
- Develop and deploy curricula that approach climate change and climate solutions from a climate justice perspective.
- Deploy curricula that connect the local, regional, and global implications of climate change with the lives of students. There is strong evidence that behaviors and impacts related to the students’ local communities have the greatest meaning for students. The climate change education community calls for an increased focus on place-based and intergenerational approaches to climate education.
- Support extending climate change education beyond the classroom through interactions with local ecosystems.
- Provide students with opportunities to become involved in climate solutions. Incentivize community-based learning institutions to become focal points for community engagement, learning and dialogue.
- Frame the learning from a position of hope and optimism. Develop and deploy curriculum about climate solutions and celebrate the successes.
- Train educators to use socio-emotional learning practices to help students cope with the traumatic nature of climate change.
- Support the integration of Indigenous values, knowledge, and ways of knowing into climate change and environmental curriculum. Develop curriculum in collaboration with Tribal Nations.
- Empower educators—both teachers and educators in informal learning institutions (e.g., museums, aquariums, zoos, nature centers, cultural centers)—to be key voices for advancing climate knowledge beyond the classroom. This simple strategy can overcome the separation people experience between science and their lives outside the classroom.
- Incentivize informal learning institutions to focus on education about solutions to the climate crisis and help people put learning into practice.
- Deploy COVID-19 relief and recovery funds to ensure that informal learning institutions survive the economic crisis and remain viable in their communities.
- Elevate BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) as leaders in formal and informal education settings.
- Address the low representation of BIPOC in STEM fields.
- Increase BIPOC representation in educational decision-making processes.
The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the ACE Framework authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the New Jersey Department of Education.
The resources provided on this webpage are for informational purposes only. All resources must meet the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) accessibility guidelines. Currently, the Department aims to conform to Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). However, the Department does not guarantee that linked external sites conform to Level AA of the WCAG 2.1. Neither the Department of Education nor its officers, employees or agents specifically endorse, recommend or favor these resources or the organizations that created them. Please note that the Department of Education has not reviewed or approved the materials related to the programs.