Curriculum Review: The Science of Climate Change

Forget alternative facts and deal with actual science: Rebecca Pickens reviews The Science of Climate Change, a hands-on curriculum that tackles one of science’s most important issues.

Homeschooling offers our families wide open space to explore complex and topical issues like climate change. But finding science-based, kid-friendly materials to support these efforts can be surprisingly difficult. Blair Lee’s new curriculum, The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course, has arrived on the scene just in time!

A former science professor with a background in environmental chemistry, Lee has gone on to pursue a career as a curriculum developer. You may know her as an author for the popular resource R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey or as the Smart Science columnist for HSL magazine.

In developing content for The Science of Climate Change, Lee has relied on her own scientific training as well as the research of reputable organizations which include:

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Earth Systems Laboratory (ESL)
  • National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

The Science of Climate Change is a concise 69 pages divided into four parts titled: The Greenhouse Effect; Global Warming; Climate Change; and What Can Be Done to Help? A useful glossary, answer key, and additional resources follow.

Lee’s writing is inviting and succinct. From the start, her admirable objective is clear: to make vital information concerning climate change accessible and relevant to a wide variety of learners.

Like many home educators, Lee believes scientific understanding is developed through “a careful pairing of information with an application of that information.” In order to achieve this balance, Lee has developed 16 hands-on activities to accompany her straightforward, science-based explanations of global warming. Preparation for these activities is minimal since many of the required materials can be found in most households.

Activities include making an empty box and predicting the number of air molecules inside of it. By making a Kool-Aid mixture that models the gas mixture found in air, kids learn about the significant effect a small concentration of greenhouse gas has on our planet. Another activity encourages students to gather and interpret data by tracking the temperature, amount of precipitation, and wind speed in one’s hometown every year for the past 30 years. Other activities include labs, graphing, and scientific modeling. Each activity is supported with helpful charts, tables, illustrations, and substantive data.

Never in my lifetime has it felt more imperative to provide young people with substantive science and opportunities to develop the critical thinking skills required to make positive change.

Lee does not sugarcoat the serious threats posed by climate change. At the same time, she provides her readers with a sense of hope and purpose by sharing pragmatic strategies we can all use to help minimize our carbon footprints. Making a case for practices that reduce, reuse, and recycle, Lee also encourages—and shows readers easy ways to—moderate energy consumption.

The Science of Climate Change was developed for a range of age levels. Though the information presented is most suited for children ages 8 to 15, it could easily be modified to accommodate older and younger learners. This curriculum will work well with multi-age siblings and is likely to inspire terrific mealtime discussions.

In an effort to ensure the book’s activities are accessible for a multitude of learners, lee sometimes presents two versions of the same projects. One such example is a graphing activity. Lee explains, “One set of graphs is a dot-to-dot activity for younger learners, where much of the graphing work has been done, and the real work is answering the questions at the end of the activity. There is also a version for older learners who use the information from a data table and to plot data points on the graphs.”

The Science of Climate Change is a secular program containing peer-reviewed, objective science. Even children who don’t yet consider themselves to be “good at” or engaged with science will be able to interact thoughtfully with the material presented here.

The PDF version is $20, and soft-cover copies are $30.

Many times throughout this year I’ve considered what an increasingly complex world my sons are living in. Never in my lifetime has it felt more imperative to provide young people with substantive science and opportunities to develop the critical thinking skills required to make positive change. As moms and dads everywhere put forth their best efforts to raise a new generation of responsible global citizens, they are fortunate to have resources such as Blair Lee’s new book to support them in their efforts.

Disclosure: Blair Lee is a sometimes columnist for HSL magazine. Her work for the magazine did not influence this review.

This was originally published in the summer 2017 issue of HSL.

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