Climate Ready Philadelphia: Teaching Students About the Here & Now of Climate Change

On March 16, 2018, high school teachers from the Philadelphia School District convened at the Franklin Institute for a workshop: "Climate Ready Philadelphia: Teaching Students About the Here & Now of Climate Change" thanks to funding provided by a grant from CUSP (Climate & Urban Systems Partnership). Teacher training included helping students understand, communicate, mitigate, and adapt to climate change and prepare for a hotter and wetter Philadelphia.

 Philadelphia school teachers experiment with hands on climate change models available for free from the Franklin Institute.

Philadelphia school teachers experiment with hands on climate change models available for free from the Franklin Institute.

Dr. Rachel Valletta, CUSP’s Director and Environmental Scientist for The Franklin Institute, provided scientific information on Climate Change 101. Franklin Institute’s Curriculum Developer, Rachel Castro-Diephouse, discussed best practices for communicating climate change to students and explained that framing climate change as stories engage people at the personal level, making the information more accessible. Mary Ann Boyer of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants conducted an interactive session distinguishing between weather, climate, and climate change. National Wildlife Federation’s Regional Education Manager, Holly Shields, explained the Eco Schools program, and how Philadelphia area schools can apply for awards and receive national recognition for their green efforts. Holly gave examples of efforts already done in some schools, and small scale changes they can make that can have a large impact. Sustainability Manager, Megan Garner, of the School District of Philadelphia introduced GreenFutures, the District's sustainability plan and highlighted associated initiatives that aim to make schools and the community greener.

Teachers then experimented with The Franklin Institute’s creative, hands-on models available for teachers and community groups to borrow. George Washington High School Spanish teacher, Maria Pacheco, reflected, “Everything was equally useful. I enjoyed the effective climate change stories.” Chandra Graham of Abraham Lincoln High School noted that it’s necessary to “Stay positive about ‘changing’ climate change.” This workshop will be offered again to teachers in grades 4 - 12 on May 16 (and for more in-depth training: on August 13- 15). For upcoming teacher training events on climate change, contact Megan Garner at mgarner@philasd.org or Mary Ann Boyer at maboyer61@gmail.com.

Article submitted by Lea Senft, intern at Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, and graduate student in Environmental Studies at University of  Pennsylvania.