Students use Science, Technology, Engineering, Language Arts, Art and Math (S.T.E.A.M) skills to conduct research, develop exhibits, and communicate what they’ve learned. Learning about climate change increases student concern, and this in turn increases the concern of their parents.
Teachers are also motivated to help solve problems related to climate change, and deserve recognition for their work in this area.
Preferred exhibit topics are those with the most potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within communities, based on research presented in the book and website, “Cooler Smarter,” by the Union of Concerned Scientists. These topics support the Action Exhibits for adults. They are also featured on the website.
The topics are:
- Energy Efficiency
- Home Heating and Cooling
- Renewable Energy
- Low Carbon Diets
- Sustainable Landscaping
- Reduce/Reuse (Waste Reduction)
- Climate Change, Local Impact & Local Solutions
“Exhibits on the local impact of climate change are also a useful addition, as they help communities understand how the problem hits home. This, in turn, helps motivate more sustainable behavior.
Town-wide solutions are also good exhibit topics. For example, a town policy of purchasing 100% renewable energy reduces emissions much faster than changes in individual household behavior can. It is important to focus on solutions rather than overwhelm guests with the problems. No doom and gloom–this is an upbeat, positive event.”
Discuss with teachers what lessons they already use that are perfect candidates for exhibits. This will reduce the teacher work load considerably and improve chances of participation. TIME SAVER
Teachers can be recruited by their principals, or in other ways:
“In the Berkshires we held a regional event so that we could recruit schools from multiple towns. We partnered with the Audubon Society to identify interested teachers, and also held a Continuing Education Workshop at a Regional Education Center. And, participating schools were given an award. Students decided what sustainability project to use the money for. Among the projects they chose–a recycling program, a composting effort and field trips to Arcadia Nature Sanctuary.
Compelling exhibits have clear displays and key messages, and provide a way for viewers to participate. Interaction enhances learning and retention.
The goal is for students to feel proud of what they have accomplished, and to feel comfortable talking briefly with adults and other students about their exhibit. The more opportunities they have to practice, the more comfortable they’ll be.
This teacher-developed guide provides ideas that can be used by Massachusetts K-12 educators to teach about climate change, its effects, and solutions that students, their families, and their community can implement. All of the ideas can be developed by teachers, individually or collaboratively, into projects for a Cooler Communities Exhibition. The guide includes:
- Summaries of lesson plans
- Suggested lesson extensions that can result in cross-curricular activities
- Relevant Massachusetts Frameworks Standards
- Links to resources
- Possible projects and exhibits for Cooler Communities Expositions
Here are some examples of exemplary classroom projects that took place over several weeks.
High School Honors Environmental Science
BEST PRACTICE Action Exhibit Research Project High School students conduct in-depth research on practical strategies that are then exhibited at the air. They work in small groups, and with professional experts from the community. Students investigate key ways to save energy, design social marketing messages based on barriers and benefits to action, help design the exhibits, and act as student hosts at the related fair exhibit.
High School Photography Class
Film Students photograph local residents engaged in energy-saving action.
In addition, they capture images of local places that they love.
“First, we got the Earth Science Teacher involved. He talked it up with other teachers, resulting in four more exhibits. Teachers want to do something about climate change, and they know their students will work harder for something real.”
High School Film Class
It’s a big decision to buy a different kind of car or heating system, so it helps to have trusted residents available as coaches. Students produce video interviews with local residents who have already taken energy saving actions.These are used to promote the fair, and for ongoing reference on the website.
- Film Student Kickoff Teacher Presentation
- Science Teacher, Peter Nichol explains why he is Vegan
- Other Youtube videos produced by students on transportation, heat pumps, solar, etc.
Improving Public Transportation
If you have colleges in your community, they may want to participate as exhibitors and interns. A college student used the opportunity to explain his work to make the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority’s service environmentally friendly and more efficient for passengers.
Below is a sampling of elementary and middle school exhibits from other fairs.
An exhibit on farms of the future is highly relevant in farming communities.
Home Energy Efficiency/Insulation
Energy Options: Students created posters explaining the pros and cons of different kinds of energy generation in fun, cartoon-like ways.
Solar Powered Gadgets
Third graders build solar gadgets that introduce children and other fair-goers to the potential of renewable energy.
Fourth Graders explain the composting system they have set up in their school
Fourth graders at Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington discuss the composting system they have devised at their school. Not only have they devised it, it is an ongoing operation.
The Berkshire newspaper did a great job covering this exhibit: