Reflections: 2021 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education

We have the solutions to climate change already, and educators are critical messengers of climate literacy in their communities.

Climate change is often referred to as a magnifier, because it can exacerbate the effects of the social, economic, and environmental issues that people experience everyday. Just this summer, we have seen climate change induced higher summer temperatures impact people without efficient home cooling systems, and increased wildfire occurrence preventing people with disabilities from accessing extreme weather warnings and disaster preparedness conversations.

Climate Generation believes that by overcoming disinformation, centering anti-racism and equity, and personalizing and localizing climate change action, we can move communities toward taking action and being more resilient to climate change impacts.

At our 16th annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, we dived deep into the systemic causes and consequences of climate change and explored ways to create solutions that address climate change at its intersections with other social and environmental crises.

Inside the Institute Themes

This year’s overarching theme was “A Regrounding in Truth”. We explored the truth of climate change under six guiding themes.

Climate science is an integral part of understanding how the earth’s systems are impacted by human behavior. Climate science gives us tools and methods to understand historical patterns of climate change and allows us to predict what changes we might expect in the future through data and analysis.

The Institute not only explored climate science as a way of understanding climate change, but also how many other ways of knowing help us understand this phenomena. These other ways of knowing are critical to our efforts to understand complexity and create the possibility for transformational social change.

Understanding our history and the social implications of climate change is essential to how we create solutions to this crisis, because people do not experience climate change in isolation; rather it is experienced in conjunction with the many other issues that impact their lives.

The Institute also explored how racially and socially oppressive systems have exacerbated climate change impacts disproportionately for many communities, including Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color. Through this exploration we saw how racism and socially oppressive systems intersect with climate change to create frontline communities, communities that experience the effects of climate change first and worst. We also learned how dis- and mis-information campaigns impact our understanding of climate change and can hide the truth and experiences of many communities and people.

The Summer Institute Community

We hosted a community of more than 330 educators, presenters, and cohort leaders alongside The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program and NOAA’s Climate Office. Leaders in climate change science, communication, climate and social justice, and climate change education from across the nation joined us to present on the intersectional issues of climate change. Our goal was to increase educator’s confidence and competence in climate change education.

A sample of presenters at the Summer Institute for Climate Change Education. Read more about them and their work.

With the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen how students’ school lives and home lives are intermixed. Youth today bring their identities, culture, and communities into their learning spaces. They are asking to learn about climate change and its intersections at school and wanting resources to support action in their communities.

Young people are powerful, creative, and have a deep sense of justice and urgency for climate action because their future is at stake. Educators can help them navigate different ways to take action for climate solutions in their schools and communities and to join together collectively to demand change. The youth keynote panelists at the Summer Institute showed us what it means to be a climate leader and gave us tips on how we can better support their work. Watch the recording: Youth Voices for Climate Action.

Concept maps created by educators demonstrating their knowledge and connections of climate change and education.

This work is collective, meaning it takes a lot of people doing a lot of different things to make a difference. By creating and engaging in opportunities where people are coming together, we can create action that matches the size, scale, and scope of the problem.

Climate Generation brought together 12 organizations leading on climate change education as cohort leaders for the Institute. Over thirty leaders planned the Institute and led regional days focused on exploring local impacts and solutions to climate change with their educators cohorts. We found over 480 examples of climate change solutions across North America and identified several examples of solutions that centered equity and justice.

Celebrating Collective Action

We know we have the solutions to climate change within our communities already, because we see action on climate change happening all around us!

Of course, climate scientists are doing the research that provides the information we need to make sound decisions about how to create a more sustainable world. Additionally, there are many other people using this information daily to make change. For instance, people working in green careers are contributing to climate change solutions by creating and installing renewable energy infrastructure. City planners and entrepreneurs are creating the conditions for sustainable and walking cities. Farmers are reimagining their agricultural practices. Educators are preparing themselves to teach youth about climate change, climate justice, and climate action.

This Institute brought together folks creating solutions that benefit our society beyond climate change. Their work is what makes our communities more resilient to climate change and we are excited to continue this work with this new community!

View the full Summer Institute Agenda and keep an eye on our plans for next year. Educators will be engaging with climate change education throughout the year through our online Teach Climate Network. Are you in the network? Check it out and sign up!


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