It is no secret that teachers are often overworked and are not given enough paid time to plan and prepare quality lessons and units. The idea of implementing climate literacy instruction on top of that can seem daunting, but I’ve learned a few ways to make it manageable.
Content integration allows teachers to cover multiple grade-level standards from multiple subject areas while developing multiple academic skills. Integrated lessons and units are a key component of how my grade level and I incorporate topics about the world while building content knowledge, working on reading comprehension, and hitting as many of our state’s academic standards as possible.
The climate emergency is a complex, interconnected threat. Our climate literacy instruction can be as well. For us educators, efficiency is key. Interdisciplinary content, by way of integrated units and lessons, is one way I maintain simplicity, flexibility, and meaningful instruction that deepens my students’ climate literacy.
For my grade-level team, the foundation of building quality integrated content started with us becoming champions of all of our grade-level standards. Elementary school teachers are often responsible for teaching all academic subject standards. We decided it was essential to be grounded in our state-mandated topics and skills. We used our grade-level planning time at the beginning of the school year to study our standards. This helped inform our yearly scope and sequence as we prepared for the new school year.
Once we had a blueprint of all the standards we hoped to teach during the school year, we identified a handful of standards that could align with nature, environmental, and climate-related topics we were passionate about and added those to our scope and sequence. Those would be our integrated units.
Once the standards and climate-related topics were identified, the next step was focusing on the content itself. We planned every integrated lesson or unit around the following structures:
Develop standard-based essential questions to guide the learning progression and plan the discussion structures to facilitate meaningful discussion.
Curate texts, articles, videos, etc. to activate background knowledge and inform students on the topics.
Plan student outcomes and determine how students will demonstrate their learning.
Developing meaningful learning experiences that deepen your class’s climate literacy takes planning time, collaboration, and strong pedagogy. Integrated content is helping my grade-level team continue to grow in all of these areas.
About the Author: Brittany Jefferson
Brittany is an elementary school teacher and climate justice educator from Los Angeles. Through advocacy and education, Brittany helps caregivers and educators have critical conversations about identity, social justice, and environmental justice with their kids and students.