K-12 curriculum: Preparing future climate leaders

Published on: 
17 Oct 2019
Kristen Keim

Over the past year, students have become more vocal and organized about their opposition to current policies and the lack of action on climate change. Globally, millions of people have taken to the streets to urge fellow citizens and lawmakers to protect the future that students will inherit.

As educators, we have a responsibility to equip students with problem-solving and solution-driven skills that will allow them to channel their passion into the change they want to see in the world. The Energy Coalition (TEC) aims to support educators in preparing the next generation of sustainability advocates through their Climate Leaders in Action (CLiA) curriculum.

The Energy Coalition is a California-based social change organization that helps create an abundant and healthy world by inspiring others to become energy master planners of our sustainable future. CLiA is the Energy Coalition’s comprehensive, standards-based education and career pathway program for empowering students with the knowledge and skills to effectively manage energy and water usage in their homes, schools and communities.

The Energy Coalition joined the Learning Lab Partner Network this year, and its Climate Leaders in Action lessons are now available as part of the Learning Lab annual subscription. The curriculum currently available contains 12 lessons for grades 9–12 covering climate change, energy, water and waste. Additional lessons will be added to the Learning Lab platform throughout the year.

Tinuviel Carlson, project coordinator for TEC, shares her thoughts on why this curriculum is so important to preparing future climate leaders:

Why is it important to provide a curriculum that uses critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork in lessons about resource management and carbon reduction?

Climate change is a complex issue that requires new and creative social, scientific and technological solutions. Critical thinking skills are a crucial backbone for students to come up with creative solutions that combat the impacts of climate change. CLiA gives students confidence in their ability to work with peers to break down problems. These are tools our future leaders need to decarbonize society and promote sustainability.

How does the Climate Leaders in Action curriculum connect students to their learning?

Our curriculum aims to empower students to be climate leaders within their communities through the whole-system approach of energy, water, waste and climate impacts. CLiA uses a model in which the educator is the facilitator who guides students to apply science and engineering practices while building their conceptual knowledge.

Each lesson uses experiential learning as a framework to encourage students to think critically about human consumption of energy and water and come up with actionable solutions within their local communities. Through the use of STEM, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts and language arts skills, students discover and adopt behaviors that support a healthier environmental future. 

If you could suggest only one lesson to teachers, which would it be?

I think it is important for students and educators to explore lessons across all themed modules of Energy, Water, Waste and Climate Impacts to understand systems as a whole. However, if I had to pick only one, it would be Solar Master Planning. In this lesson, students utilize online design tools to assess and create a solar master plan for their school campus to present to their community members. The lesson presents an engineering challenge that allows students to develop their teamwork and critical thinking skills to create an actionable solution to reduce emissions within their community.

Explore the CLiA curriculum