Teaching Climate Change in Primary Schools : An Interdisciplinary Approach book cover
1st Edition

Teaching Climate Change in Primary Schools
An Interdisciplinary Approach

Edited By

Anne M. Dolan

ISBN 9780367631680
Published July 27, 2021 by Routledge
364 Pages 103 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This important and timely book provides an overview of climate change and highlights the importance of including climate change education in primary schools. It emphasises the importance of cross-curricular pedagogical approaches with a focus on climate justice, providing in-depth assistance for teaching children aged 3–13 years.

Informed by up to date research, the book helps teachers to remain faithful to climate change science whilst not overwhelming children. Accompanied by online resources, this book includes practical and easy to follow ideas and lesson plans that will help teachers to include climate change education in their classrooms in a holistic, cross-curricular manner. Specific chapters address the following topics:

• Inter-disciplinary approaches to climate change

• Early childhood education

• Pedagogies of hope

• The importance of reflective practice

• Ideas for including climate change education in curricular areas such as literacy, geography, science, history and the arts

Designed to promote climate change education in primary schools, this resource will help primary teachers, student teachers, geography specialists and all those interested in climate change education develop their own conceptual knowledge and that of the children in their class.

Table of Contents


Anne Dolan

Section1: Theory and Philosophical Approaches

1. Teaching climate change: setting the context

Anne Dolan

2. A Thematic Approach to Teaching Climate Change

Fionnuala Tynan

3. The World’s Religious Traditions and Global Climate Disruption

Patricia Kieran

4. A Reflective Approach to Climate Change Education

Kathleen Horgan

5. Early Beginnings: Fostering Positive Dispositions towards Climate Education in Early Years Classrooms

Deirdre Breatnach, Mary Moloney and Jennifer Pope


Section 2: Climate Change Education: Literacy based approaches

6. Climate Change, Picturebooks and Primary School Children

Mary Roche

7. Listening, re-acting and acting: Stories from plants and animals to elicit empathy and dialogue about climate change, in the classroom and beyond

Miriam Hamilton

8. Using climate change as the context for a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach in the primary classroom

Siobhán Ní Mhurchú

Section 3: Climate Change Education: STEAM

9. Bringing Climate Change Alive in the Science Classroom through Science Communication and Engineering STEM Challenges

Maeve Liston

10. Exploring Climate Change Education Outside the Classroom

Anne O Dwyer

11. Do you see what I see? A Visual Lens for Exploring Climate Change

Anne Marie Morrin

12. The Grow Room: An artistic exploration of Climate Change

Tanya Power

13. Is Plastic Really Fantastic or is it Something More Drastic?

Anne Dolan

Section 4: Climate Change Education: Pedagogies of hope and action

14. Geography, Global Learning and Climate Justice: Geographical Aspects of Teaching Climate Change

Anne Dolan

15. Exploring Climate Change through an Historical Lens

Anne Dolan and Eileen O’Sullivan

16. Climate Change Education through Active Citizenship

Margaret Nohilly

17. Ecological Awareness: A Cornerstone to Developing a Healthy Christian Spirituality

Maurice Harmon

18. Creating Teaching Resources in Response to the Rapidly Changing Nature of Climate Change

Brighid Golden

19. Negotiating Environmental Protection Through Drama

Margaret O Keeffe and Joanna Parkes

20. Moving towards Change: The Contribution of Physically Educated Communities

Richard Bowles

21. Pedagogy of Hope: Futures Teaching for Climate Change

Anne Dolan

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Anne M. Dolan is a lecturer in primary geography with the Department of Learning, Society and Religious Education in Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland.


‘When we educate children about climate change we also educate a nation. What the past few years has shown, is that it is our children who are teaching us that we must take climate change seriously, because it affects their future and the future of the planet on which we all live. But they have also given us hope, something we all need as we work and learn together.’

Minister Eamon Ryan, T.D. Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport. 

‘Addressing climate change is a critical issue for the work of the Irish Aid programme at the Department of Foreign Affairs. I very much welcome this book which will support teachers to engage their pupils on the impacts and implications of climate change across the world and what we all can to do to be responsible climate aware global citizens.’

Minister Colin Brophy, T.D. Minister for Overseas Development and Diaspora

‘At last! Here is a book that provides authoritative but accessible guidance on teaching about climate change in primary schools. Students and teachers everywhere will welcome this thoughtful and wide-ranging exploration of what is arguably the defining issue of our age.’

Stephen Scoffham, Visiting Reader (Sustainability and Education), Canterbury Christ Church University, UK.

‘A must read for every teacher, this is such a rich and timely resource. Not shying away from the starkness of the climate science but always seeking to cultivate children’s natural wonder and hope, this is the perfect handbook for teachers who want to equip their students to be active citizens in a climate-disrupted world.’

Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth, Ireland

‘Young students are already well aware of the many environmental and climate change challenges we face. They have already been to the forefront of the struggle for climate action and climate justice. Supporting and guiding them in their reflections on the issues is a privilege as well as an opportunity. Teachers also need support in this vital task and this collection will assist them hugely in that task. This book offers much that is practical and immediate for classroom and whole school practice. Of particular value is the emphasis on placing climate change in the framework of citizenship education and the emphasis on hope and positive engagement, a key component of any education-based approach. To say this collection is a timely and relevant contribution is an understatement.’

Colm Regan, Human Rights Activist and Teacher, University of Malta

‘Climate change and biodiversity loss are the greatest challenges confronting humanity in the 21st century. Education is key to addressing them, and this has to begin at primary school level. I warmly welcome this important new resource for students and teachers and believe it will play an invaluable role in helping the next generation better understand and confront these profound challenges.’

John Gibbons, Environmental Writer and Commentator and Co-author of the Routledge Handbook of Environmental Journalism

‘Children and young people across the world have redefined political priorities in recent years and provided a refreshing insight that sees through the complexities and obstacles that have bedevilled a generation’s efforts to tackle climate change. This text provides an excellent vehicle to harness and direct the energy and curiosity of young people by providing powerful insights into how and why the education system should respond to a growing demand by them to choose a different future and become advocates for a new sustainable global society.’

Emeritus Professor John Sweeney, Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS (ICARUS), Maynooth University

‘In my outreach work on climate change, I am often asked by principals, teachers and parents how and when this topic should be taught in primary schools. This new book is very welcome indeed and fills an important gap in the curriculum. It offers fresh perspectives on how young children can engage with and learn about climate change across a range of subject areas. It also offers much needed guidance and practical ideas for teachers on how to broach this topical issue in sensitive ways that generate hope and action, rather than anxiety and fear. I sincerely hope it will be used widely and help to generate more widespread teaching of climate change across Ireland.’

Lorna Gold, Author of Climate Generation: Awakening to Our Children’s Future

Teaching Climate Change in Primary Schools: An Interdisciplinary Approach is a very welcome and essential new text. Primary children are well aware of the significance of climate change and of the actions being taken by young people to demand that it is tackled by us all. This book provides primary teachers with a wealth of knowledge for approaching the climate emergency in their classrooms. It could not be more timely nor more important, showing how this is a whole school and whole curriculum matter which primary schools must address with and for their children.’

Professor Emeritus Simon Catling, Oxford Brookes University

‘Climate change education has to be part of our personal, local and global responses to the challenges facing a planet on the brink. With its enlightening focus on action, hope and empowerment, this book will help primary teachers to engage creatively and critically with climate change education.’

Koen Timmers, Educator, Author and Co-founder of the global educational projects Climate-Action.info and ProjectKakuma.com

‘Climate Change is the biggest challenge in the world today. Our students want to take action and it is an area in which they can individually and collectively make a difference. As educators, it is our responsibility to empower our students to take that action. The pedagogical insights from this book are invaluable.’

Kate Murray, Principal Teacher, St. Augustine’s National School, Clontuskert, Ballinsaloe, Galway, Ireland

"The book presents an interdisciplinary approach to climate change education (CCE). It addresses the implementation of CCE across a wide range of primary curricular areas, thus casting a wide net for CCE. Two main aspects stood out as particular strengths of the book. The first is its strong focus on pedagogy, and the second is its hand-on approach, providing practical and applicable lesson plans and resources for teachers to use."

Efrat Eilam, Australian Journal of Environmental Education

"This is a remarkably timely, thoughtful and significant resource; taking the debate about climate education far beyond rhetoric and deep into the territory of tangible  practice. It achieves this both thoroughly and comprehensively. It deserves a wide readership among teachers, student teachers, subject advisors and climate educators of all kinds."

Ben Ballin, Environemntal Education (NAEE)