Initial Publication Date: September 18, 2020

Personally Relevant and Culturally Sustaining

Scientific knowledge and practices are situated in our culture and not value-neutral. As you select climate science learning materials and activities for your classroom, reflect on what culturally specific values, assumptions, and perspectives are reflected in these resources. Try to incorporate a variety of different perspectives and have explicit conversations with children about the existence of multiple perspectives (e.g., Whose voices are represented here? Whose are missing? How do we agree and disagree?).

Students and teachers bring their cultural identities, experiences, practices, and worldviews to the classroom. Ideally learning about climate would be connected with these cultural values. Provide time for community-building, time to get to know students' norms, values, beliefs, and interests, to bridge students' everyday lives with the culture and practices of science. Encourage students to use their many ways of knowing (reason, imagination, emotion, intuition, language, memory, sense perception, faith) to make sense of their world, and compare their sense-making to scientific ways of knowing. For example, in a lesson about the weather, how might a blind student who can't see a thermometer make sense of shifts in temperature? How might you draw on the practice of observation of the natural world that is valued in many indigenous communities, and expressed through oral storytelling? These examples can be associated with the scientific practices of observation, constructing explanations, interpreting data, and communicating information.

As you attend to cultural differences in science learning, remember that cultural identities are dynamic and be careful not to portray cultural groups. Climate science investigations are ideally responsive to learners' personal interests and their families' and communities' interests. Collaborating with families and community members, including inviting them to share their experiences and expertise during science learning processes, is a powerful way to respectfully and authentically engage with multiple cultural perspectives. Climate science learning that is personally and culturally relevant will be more meaningful and engaging for learners of all ages.

Check out these CLEAN resources to see examples of videos and curriculum that incorporate different viewpoints and make climate science personally relevant: