Four car-clogged freeways surround Darlene Tieu’s students at Horace Mann UCLA Community School in South Los Angeles. Days with clear skies in the area are few and far between. Just this past October, her students dealt with dangerous heatwaves and cancelled sports because of smoke from fires in Southern California.
“Right now, my students are doing their best at being teenagers,” Tieu told attendees of a conference held at UCLA that was focused on how to teach environmental science literacy. More than 200 higher education leaders, pre-K through 12th grade educators, researchers and policymakers gathered at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center for the Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Project and Summit as part of an effort to hash out the big ideas for educating the next generation of climate change-aware students.
With the proof of climate change affecting their daily lives, Tieu explained how she has taught her students about environmental science using a curriculum that incorporates the realities of climate change. Most recently, for example, she had her chemistry students complete a lesson on what each person’s ecological footprint was.
“Since that lesson, we continue to learn about climate change and it has made my students realize that the reality of their future is going to be very different from what they imagined,” Tieu said. “More importantly, they are realizing they are the ones who are going to have to fix this.”
And with that being the reality, Tieu knows she needs to make sure her students are, in turn, properly educated on the subject.
Tieu has been collaborating with Heather Clark, a doctoral student, and other educators at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Teaching teachers how to teach climate science was the fulcrum of the Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Project and Summit — a coalition of faculty and administrative leaders from across the University of California and California State University systems in partnership with UCLA GSEIS.
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Above, L-R: From left: Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, UCLA Wasserman Dean, UCLA GSE&IS; Emily Carter, UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost; Vincent Del Casino Jr., Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, San José State University; UC President Janet Napolitano, and California Lt. Governor Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis.
Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA