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Widespread Support for Teaching About Climate Change

But less than half of parents & educators talk to kids about global warming

Climate change might be a controversial subject in Congress, but not so much in homes across America, with a new poll showing parents overwhelmingly support teaching about the critical issue in schools. But as millions of students worldwide participate in Earth Day activities, the same poll found that most parents and educators aren’t talking to them about global warming at all.

Four out of five parents and 86% of educators in the U.S. support teaching about climate change, according to the NPR/Ipsos poll. However, the same poll found that 45% of parents and even fewer educators (42%) are teaching about global warming and its impacts on our environment, economy and society.

Why are so few educators teaching about this global issue? Nearly two-thirds said it’s outside their subject area, while a third reported being concerned about parent complaints related to teaching about the oft-controversial issue. Of the educators who reported not teaching about climate change, 17% said they don’t have the materials, 17% also said they don’t know enough about the subject to teach it, and 4% said their school does not allow the subject to be taught.

This comes as youth around the globe are starting movements to fight the catastrophic impacts of climate change. As the world celebrates the 49th Earth Day, young people are being confronted with the consequences of decades of inaction to protect the planet. Led by fierce voices for environmental justice like 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, nearly 1.5 million students in 112 countries went on strike from school on March 15 to demand that world leaders do something about the climate crisis.

16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo by Anders Hellberg

“We have to understand the emergency of the situation. Our leadership has failed us,” Thunberg said. “Young people must hold older generations accountable for the mess they have created. We need to get angry and transform that anger into action.”

Want to help inform students about the climate change crisis? The NEA has resources, materials and activities for teaching students at all levels about climate change and the consequences it has for the earth and all humans, as well as Earth Day-specific lessons to help students understand the gravity of climate change and think about how they can actively work to reverse it.

Featured image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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