Published: Nov. 10, 2022

Students participate in a climate-based lesson during a workshop at CU Boulder

Students participate in a climate-based lesson during a workshop at CU Boulder. Photo credit: CIRES/CU Boulder

When experts from around the globe gather in Boulder next month for the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit, teachers and aspiring teachers will be in the audience, looking for stories to bring back to the classroom. They’ll be crafting meaningful lessons around the themes of the conference—impacts, obligations, and solutions—and working with an educator's guide created at CU Boulder to help their students understand how climate change is impacting people and communities and how they can help.

“My goal is to support the aims of the conference by helping teachers establish a human rights perspective on climate change,” said CIRES Education & Outreach Associate Patrick Chandler. “Grounding climate change education in this human rights perspective, with a focus on people and places… it can make taking action feel more urgent and more possible for students.”

“It can also decrease student and teacher anxiety and grief around climate change,” said his colleague, Gina Fiorile, who is also part of the CIRES Education & Outreach team and Coordinator of an award-winning collection of climate education resources. Helping teachers and students figure out how to participate in solutions to climate change, at the level of their schools or in their communities, is a “proven way to help with climate anxiety,” Fiorile said. 

The educator’s guide that Chandler built for the climate change and human rights summit draws from well-established and reviewed lesson plans designed to inspire action as well as understanding. They’re all available for free through CLEAN, the Climate Literacy and Awareness Network, a nationally renowned online clearinghouse that features more than 800 high-quality climate and energy resources peer-reviewed by both scientists and teachers for accuracy and classroom readiness and provides guidance for teachers to bring climate topics into their classrooms. 

Classroom and pre-service teachers are encouraged to apply now to be part of the conference Teacher Workshop, which runs concurrently with the Summit, December 2-4 at CU Boulder. These in-person spots are limited to individuals who are engaged and excited about working together to bring human rights-centered climate change education into classrooms. Participants will work in pairs or small groups to develop lesson plans that can be shared widely with others.

“Teachers right now, especially after COVID, are exhausted,” Chandler said. “The idea is for them to not do more, but rather build on content already out there. If we do this well and give educators guides and creative lesson sets, they get a push of energy added to their classrooms, something that’s fun and new and different.”

Anne Gold, Director of the CIRES Education and Outreach program, said she’s excited to have her team engaged with the high-profile international conference which is “really focusing the world’s attention on action and empowerment and youth.” The opportunity to engage with educators, virtually and in person, is powerful, she said: “We know that teachers are multipliers in getting these empowering messages out in classrooms and communities across the country.“

Classroom teachers earn one GRTE credit hour for participation; pre-service teachers are offered a $75 stipend. Applications are due November 16 and will take most people less than 20 minutes to complete. Decisions will be announced within days after that deadline.

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