My ecology unit started in an unusually urgent manner—with a call to the doctor.

"911, this is an emergency! Let's get some vitals on the patient, stat!" Now we weren't in an emergency room, nor had any student collapsed. Instead, we were in my classroom, my students were the doctors, and the patient was planet Earth. For the next few weeks, my students set out on a journey to take the Earth’s vitals and diagnose our planet’s condition.   

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Eileen Hynes is a teacher at Lake and Park School in Seattle, Washington. She is a member of NCSE’s teacher advisory board, a National Geographic Teacher Fellow, and a NOAA Climate Steward. 

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Have you ever heard about ocean acidification? I first learned about this problem a few years ago from a marine biologist friend of mine, who told me she was starting to see damage to the shells of some of the smaller organisms she surveys. Since then, of course, I feel like I hear about it all the time. So I was surprised to find out that outside of scientific circles, no one seems to have heard about this dramatic and tangible consequence of rising carbon emissions.
 
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When we got the results back from our national survey of climate change education, the good news jumped out at us. Climate change is actually showing up in schools.

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As you probably know, NCSE released the first national survey on the teaching of climate change in public schools last week in Science. Why did we do this survey? Our executive director, Ann Reid, wrote yesterday in our blog:

“We had anecdotal evidence, and some good, but not national, survey data, suggesting that efforts to cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change were seeping into science classrooms.”

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I’m often approached by teachers looking for new ways to connect their students to climate change. Sure there are lessons and videos galore through groups like the CLEAN network, but what about books that are engaging and, most importantly, age-appropriate? That becomes a trickier task, particularly as middle school and elementary teachers try to find new ways to engage their students.

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On the first day of every school year, I ask my students to draw a scientist. After questioning looks and a round of giggles, the majority of them draw the well-known ‘Einstein’ figure, an older white male with crazy hair and eyeglasses.This figure will inevitably be drawn next to a table of smoking chemicals, and even if it’s just a stick figure, it becomes obvious that his scientific intentions are not necessarily for the good of humankind.

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In November, I attended WGBH’s forum on digital media in STEM learning. The topic: climate education. NCSE’s friends from the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) were there in force, as were representatives from NOAA Education, NASA, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, and Young Voices for the Planet.

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