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Climate Justice pedagogy: what matters when engaging youth with climate change

Authors: Sally Neas*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Global Change, Cultural and Political Ecology, Environmental Perception
Keywords: human dimensions of climate change, climate engagement, climate education, critical pedagogy, youth climate activism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Virtual Track 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Youth of today will bear the brunt of climate change, both in adapting to a climate-impacted world as well as decarbonizing their lives. However, climate education in public schools fails to prepare youth to address such futures. Most climate education focuses on informational learning about the greenhouse gas effect and globalized climate impacts, despite the documented failure of these strategies to engender action. And, when curriculums do address climate action, they typically serve a neoliberal agenda by focusing on technological fixes and individual behavior change. Such narratives render invisible the processes of capital accumulation that have resulted in climate change, as well as the vast inequalities in the causes and impacts of the issue. One solution to address this is to redesign curriculum around concepts of climate justice and action. Considering this context, an important question is: what educational strategies best support youth in engaging with climate justice?

To address this, the PI designed a participatory action research project with a high school science class. In this project, the PI worked with the science teacher to co-develop a climate justice curriculum with the goal of engaging, not just informing, youth. The curriculum was implemented and students’ engagement was assessed through surveys and participant observation. Conclusions include the effectiveness of integrating narrative-based strategies with science learning; the importance of teaching substantively about climate mitigation; the need to give youth opportunities to construct theories about how to make change; and the need for youth to have embodied experiences of making change.

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