Climate change lessons in the classroom

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Climate change is a phrase we’re all familiar with these days. We hear stories daily about severe drought, wildfires and cyclone bombs dropping torrential rain on parts of the United States. Yet, the very phrase prompts controversy. Recent government reports show that action needs to be taken soon to help curtail the damage to the planet. Extreme weather experts say education is the key to living with, and maybe even slowing down, the impacts of climate change. Producer Grace Provenzano and Videographer Rudy Romo visited a local classroom to find out what one teacher is doing to teach her students how to make a difference.

Kino Junior High students in Nancy Parra-Quinlan‘s class are tackling the massive issue of climate change with this experiment about glaciers. Parra-Quinlan’s students are realizing that something needs to be done about extreme weather conditions. “We’re learning how the glaciers aren’t building up anymore and that there isn’t any ice to reflect the sun. In general it’s getting warmer,” 8th grade student, Alma Castro said. Seventh-grade student, Jaya Myers, said climate change is an extremely pressing matter. “My parents teach me. We have solar panels and are trying to do our best to save the planet,” she said. 

Parra-Quinlan acknowledges that the teaching of climate change in public schools remains controversial. Lessons about climate change are not mandated by the state department of education. “It’s a matter of showing young people HOW to think about climate change, instead of telling them WHAT to think,” Parra-Quinlan said. 

According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, global average sea levels in 2020 rose for the 9th consecutive year. As a result, oceans are now more than three-and-a-half inches above the average from 1993. NOAA reports that this is a direct result of melting glaciers and ice sheets; and expanding warmer waters over land. This also leads to more moisture in the air causing an increase in heavy rains.

Another sign of climate change – there is drought in many parts of the western and southwestern United States causing wildfires. In 2020, Arizona saw the hottest temperatures since the late 1890s. NOAA Meteorologist Jaret Rogers said this is extraordinary. “Even here in Phoenix we’ve seen a pretty significant nighttime temps have come up quite a bit,” he said. “Urban heat is keeping nighttime temps up across the globe.”

Heat islands refer to an increase in construction as a city grows. Concrete buildings hold in heat. This is contributing to hotter temperatures overall along with fossil fuel usage and overall natural resource depletion. “It’s basically making a thick blanket that is hanging on to the heat of the earth. Instead, we’re going to have more droughts,” ASU Climatologist Randy Cerveny said. 

Meanwhile back in the classroom, that’s exactly what Parra-Quinlan is busy trying to pass along to her students everyday. “You have to think about the rest of our globe,” she mentioned. “It’s a domino effect here, it effects the rest of the world. They are a world citizen and need to look at things and pay attention and understand science so they can make an informed decision and become critical thinkers.”


Producer: Grace Provenzano
Videographer: Rudy Romo

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