Climate Change Heads to High School

Climate Change Heads to High School

The new kid in class? Climate change.

By 2050, today’s teenagers will be dealing head-on with frequent flooding, rising seas, and extreme weather. In response, innovative teachers across the region are helping prepare them by making climate change part of their high school curricula.

Cambridge Rindge and Latin
For 10 years, Barbara Dorritie’s biology class at Cambridge Rindge and Latin has worked in small groups of three-four students to research climate change causes, consequences, and potential solutions. Her students then develop short presentations describing their research and how they personally intend to take action.

By focusing on solutions and actions, she’s building a generation better equipped to respond. “Coming into biology, most of my students don’t know what’s causing climate change, but they are interested in it. They also have almost no idea of what the actual consequences are, and how it will affect them,” said Dorritie.

Student teams could choose whatever topic most intrigued them, and that diversity of interests gave the entire class a broader understanding of the issues. Some students researched renewable energy technologies, some favored the carbon-free nuclear option, and some chose to examine the roles of industry and government in both creating the problem and helping solve it.

As for personal actions, many students wrote letters to government officials about public policy, others are changing individual behavior, and everyone seemed fully engaged and energized by the assignment. One group of girls created a music video to Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” describing the role of big industry in climate change. Zeroing in like pros on the best way to capture the attention of their peers, it was also a great testament to just how tech-savvy today’s students are.

Students’ grades are based in part on professionalism, and Ms. Dorritie ratchets up the pressure by inviting outside evaluators to attend and ask questions, this year including Mayor Henrietta Davis among others.

Revere High School work exhibited at Lesley
Another stunning example of leadership in climate change education currently resides in the Atrium Gallery at Lesley University. The “Weathering Art” exhibit was inspired by Dan Osterman, who curated the original exhibit earlier this year at Gallery 119 in Lowell, calling for “creative expression in the era of climate change.”

Revere High School art teacher and Lesley grad June Krinsky-Rudder decided to take this call to her school and engage her students in creating art to express their feelings and concerns about the future climate. Collaborating with RHS science teacher Eben Bein, she had her students spend time researching the issues and then encouraged them to create 3D works conveying what most deeply affected them.

“They worked with science students who were studying it, went down to the library and pulled every book and magazine with relevant material, and looked around online. The kids did about two weeks of research before doing any art,” said Krinsky-Rudder, who also encouraged them to minimize the environmental impact of their art by creatively reusing scrap material.

Created with flickr slideshow.


The results were impressive and moving. Melting glaciers, pollution, droughts, and extreme weather were top of mind, and come to life in the students’ work.

Both teachers sense the importance of bringing climate change into the students’ consciousness. As Dorritie explains, “Right now, we’re headed for a future that will drastically affect the lives of everyone on the planet. I hope we can help students see both the urgent need to change this future, and the large scale initiatives that will be required.”

Headline photo: Poster submitted by CRLS student Yoonjin Seo to the UMASS Lowell Coolscience Competition following her research.