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Tuesday, 20 November 2012 13:25

Chasing Ice Educator Resources

In anticipation of the upcoming showing of Chasing Ice, we pulled together some resources that could help extend learning about climate change and ice and why it is important.  If you are interested in introducing the implications of warming in the Arctic, lesson 4 of our Grades 6-12 Global Warming 101 curriculum provides a nice overview.  If you want get a more in depth overview of the Arctic, check out our online Arctic Community Curriculum.

NEW! Free Chasing Ice App for iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.  This app shows the before and after images of glaciers and frozen places captured in the film Chasing Ice by National Gographic Photographer Jim Balog. 

In the following video, taken on the Will Steger Foundation's Baffin Island expedition, Will Steger talks about glacier loss in the Arctic.


If you haven't seen the news about ice in Antarctica actually growing and the connection with the Arctic.  The following videos are great introductions and also offer the chance to discuss how each video introduces the issue.  Which video do you prefer?  Why?



NASA's Global Ice Viewer gives a nice overview of the status of ice around the world.

If you are taking students to Chasing Ice, ask them to write up their "elevator speech" about why understanding ice melt in the Arctic is important and share it with someone they meet at the theater!  Please share their responses with us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Published in Climate Lessons
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 15:51

Book of the Month: Gecko Boy

Note: This is part of a monthly series of posts focused on integrating literacy and climate science and energy issues. The posts are based on discussions in the "Not So Serious Climate and Energy Book Club," last Friday. The book club evolved out of some informal virtual discussions between a number of us involved in climate and energy education around the country and is sponsored through ICEE: Inspiring Climate Change Education Excellence in Boulder, Colorado. Book suggestions, (especially hopeful ones!) are welcome in the comments area below.

Our October bookclub book up for discussion was the book, Gecko Boy:  The Battle of Fracking.  Written by 12 year old, Pavan Raj Gowda, the book is a short fictional story about a boy  that is given the magical powers of a snail and a gecko to save his town from environmental degradation resulting from fracking.  It is written at an upper elementary level, with engaging comic illustrations, but because of supplementary reference material in the back, could be used in a middle school classroom as well.  It is a great example of a project middle and high school students could do themselves. A secondary topic in the book is biomicry, as the hero gains powers based on actual traits of the gecko and snail.

We generally liked the book because of the great example set by such a young author, but also because of the good job he does at going through the proper steps for environmental problem solving including; talking to scientists, pleading his case to the owner of the company doing the fracking and appealing to the government for help.  The need to have super powers to solve the problem in the end is a great illustration of how students can often feel stuck and unaware of what they can do next.  It offers the opportunity for a great discussion on civic engagement and how far someone might be willing to go to bring about change.

Here is a video of Pavan talking to a school about his organization, Green Kids Now.


The next Not So Serious Climate and Energy book club will be November 30, 3:30 MT/4:30 CT/5:30 ET, and we will be discussing Exodus by Julie Bertagna.  For more information join the ICEE forum or email Susan Buhr, Susan Buhr, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Upcoming books include:  Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson and Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.


Published in Climate Lessons
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 15:25

Teaching Our Students to be Heroes

For the last few months I have had the pleasure of participating in a small informal book club of individuals interested in climate change education.  Teachers that join the discussion bringdystopiak valuable insights on how a particular text might fit into the classroom setting and for what ages.  Those of us that focus on supporting educators have been able to develop and think about ways to build climate literacy through literature.  All of us are united in a love for reading, and have been happy to justify taking some of our work time to dedicate to reading anything from young adult dystopian novels to non-fiction stories of innovation and solutions to the climate crisis.

One topic that we often circle back to is the difficulty of finding young adult works of fiction that feel hopeful when it comes to climate change.  Most of them portray a fairly dire future full of struggle and intense hardship (see bookclub blogs) As someone who focuses on climate change education as a profession, I know that without incorporating solutions to the discussion, students/teachers/the public can be left feeling overwhelmed, disengaged and hopeless.

David Sobel is well known in the field of environmental education for his work in place-based education and his contribution to the discussion about how and when to introduce climate change to students.  A few years ago in his article, Climate Change Meets Ecophobia, Sobel argued heavily against using environmental tragedy as motivation and that introducing climate change too early in elementary school was not only a bad idea, but could be detrimental.

It is because of this past work that I was interested to read David Sobel’s recent article in Orion magazine, Feed the Hunger. In Feed the Hunger, Sobel describes the phenomena of a lack hopeful environmental fiction for young adults and attributes it to the “…rising tide of hopelessness, along with rising seas level [that] is lapping at the toes of our young adolescents.”  This is in turn making “…our young adult fiction different from the young adult nature fiction of thirty years ago.”  Surprisingly Sobel, doesn’t argue that this is bad thing, but instead that by writing about the issues that students worry about every day they become “…somewhat more manageable, more quantifiable.”  Even more so he advocates for the importance of books like Hunger Games because of the resilient examples of heroes they provide for our students.

Discussion about preparing students for the future in the warming world generally includes the need to understand the essential principles of climate science and energy literacy.  It often also includes a discussion on the importance of developing skills for solutions in the areas of engineering and civic engagement.  Rarely does the discussion include teaching our students things like resilience.  Integrating fiction and other more literary works into climate change education can be a useful and beneficial way to bring these less tangible, difficult to teach, yet important lessons to students.

In a recent book of essays, called the Thirty-Year Plan, thirty writers offer their thoughts on what we need to “build a better future.”  The essays don’t include concepts like an understanding of the greenhouse effect or where our energy comes from, but instead the less tangible, including; courage, empathy, compassion, optimism, humility, and improvisation.  Sobel supports young adult dystopian fiction inevitably because “we’re going to need more adolescents willing to be heroic.”  By including these books in our teaching we offer an opportunity for our students to reflect on and perhaps even nurture the important traits that are needed as we face the challenges of today and the future.

Published in Climate Lessons

fish-tank-fable-for-our-times-scott-bischke-paperback-cover-artAn aquarium of critters is left to struggle over resources and scientific integrity. Whether you are seeking inspired conversation or simply love a good story, “Fish Tank: A Fable For Our Times” is a unique treat. Genuinely well-written, simple in language and complex in theme: this story delivers on it’s promise to be an “insightful allegory about the human condition, tackling issues of politics and power, limited resources and climate change.” Author Scott Bischke twists together a suite of characters that, while familiar in their attitudes, interactions and dialogue, remain colorful and easy to love. Each character comes to life in the fight for food in a changing planet … er … I mean aquarium. A recommended read for book groups and classrooms of any age.

Note: this particular book review is a staff pick and is not part of the “Not So Serious Climate and Energy Book Club”.

Published in Climate Lessons
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 10:47

Climate Lesson Updates: October 2012

Happy October!
We've had a blast the last few weeks with Bloomington Lutheran and Open World Image 8Learning Community students down at Ft. Snelling State Park within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.  Staff from the Mississippi River Fund, National Park Service and the Will Steger Foundation led students through activities around weather, climate and phenology and the students were able to do a buckthorn removal service project in the end.  Our featured photo this month is of Bloomington Lutheran students hard at work.  The field trips are funded through support from the National Park Foundation as part of the Parks Climate Challenge.  See more photos and learn about the trips here.

We are happy to welcome our new education assistant, John Smith! John comes to us with a background in environmental education and most recently worked with St. Paul Schools as an energy and sustainability associate.
There are a number of great opportunities coming up in November including free public forums around Minnesota with Will Steger and J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy.  If you are an educator in one of the communities they are visiting and are interested in sharing any of the work you have been doing with students please send me an email.

Keep up the good work!  Please don't hesitate to contact us with questions or to share how you are bringing climate change into your educational setting.

Professional Development
Green Schools Workshops, Presented by the Minnesota Department of Education:
These workshops will provide resources and networking for K-12 administrators, staff, teachers and anyone else interested in making schools more healthy, efficient, and effective. You will see, first-hand, the benefits of green schools and learn about resources available in the areas of green buildings and energy, health and safety, and environmental education.

Dates and locations:
Workshops will be held at Minnesota’s 2012 Green Ribbon Schools National Award Winners
Monday, October 29: St. Joseph – Kennedy Community School
Monday, November 5: West St. Paul – Garlough Environmental Magnet School
Wednesday, November 28: Duluth – North Shore Community School
Cost: None - they are FREE! Clock hour certificates available.
More information and to register

The Not Serious Climate and Energy Bookclub
At the next book club we will discuss 12 year old Pavan Raj Gowda's book Gecko Boy, The Battle of Fracking.  I had the privilege of meeting Pavan last week at the North American Association for Environmental Education Conference and was extremely impressed with his maturity and interest in raising awareness around environmental issues.  The book club will take place Thursday October 25, 2012 at 3:30 MT/4:30 CT/5:30 ET.  For more information email Susan Buhr, Susan Buhr, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  Read a review of past bookclubs here.

Classroom Resources and Opportunities
COP 18 will be held in Qatar and we will be following a delegation of high school students from the School of Environmental Studies that are attending.  Discuss the upcoming climate negotiations with your students using our Citizen Climate lesson plans, available to download here.

Thanks to a partnership with Chasing Ice, the Will Steger Foundation will be providing complimentary tickets to see a free screening of the film for educators, youth and key partners in our network. Screenings will be held November 30 through December 4th at the Lagoon Cinema, Uptown Minneapolis.  If you are an educator interested in tickets for yourself or your class, please contact me.  More information.

News of Note
Just Released from the National Academies of Sciences- Climate Change Education in Formal Settings, K-14.

Frontline will explore the shift in public opinion on climate change tonight on PBS

Is Global Warming Happening Faster Than Expected? (Scientific American)

Published in Climate Lessons
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