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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Changing Climate in the Classroom: A model for place-based climate science education in San Diego County


Climate change is a phenomenon that has sweeping impacts across the globe. Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases are leading to increased mean global air and ocean temperatures. These changes contribute to problems that have societal, environmental, and financial implications. Climate change education is becoming increasingly relevant as today’s students will face threats such as sea level rise, changes in the frequency and intensity of droughts and storms, loss of biodiversity, and others as climate-related impacts worsen. Yet, students currently lack a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of climate change. In order to address the problems associated with climate change, students must be knowledgeable, engaged in finding solutions, and be motivated to take action. This project sought to develop a curriculum through a place-based framework that can enhance students’ understanding of the causes and effects of climate change, as well as the possible solutions in addressing this global problem on local scales. I developed a curriculum on the subjects of climate change and coastal ecosystems which includes a series of three lessons, in-class activities, a laboratory experiment, and a boat-based field experience.

I administered the unit to 47 tenth grade students at High Tech High North County. To assess the effectiveness of the curriculum I administered the same assessment prior to and following the presentation of the lessons. The results show that students’ scores improved significantly after receiving the lessons when subjected to a paired t test providing evidence that students gained an improved awareness about local climate change issues and solutions. Additionally, student feedback qualitatively yielded positive results, demonstrating the efficacy of the curriculum as a tool for teaching high school students about climate science.

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