Initial Publication Date: September 18, 2020

Teach it Across Disciplines

Climate science cuts across multiple disciplines like meteorology, physics, chemistry, geology, oceanography, biology, mathematics, and others; therefore, science standards at every grade level connect with core climate concepts. Many standards at the elementary grade levels lay out foundational understandings that are necessary for students to be able to understand big ideas around climate topics. Check out our "Fundamental Climate Science Principles for Elementary Teachers" page to see how NGSS's K-5 Disciplinary Core Ideas connect with the Climate and Energy Literacy Principles.

Understanding and responding to climate change collectively at a global scale requires holistic climate learning, including interweaving of math, language arts, and social sciences. If available instructional time is a concern, consider using the multidisciplinary nature of climate science to integrate into lessons supporting the core competencies of reading, writing, and mathematics.

Explore examples from the CLEAN collection that support core competencies, check out these resources:

The multidisciplinary nature of climate science also reflects the existence of complex socio-ecological systems, in which humans are considered a part of nature instead of separate from it. Early childhood and elementary educators are sometimes hesitant to engage with such topics. However, research indicates that young learners are capable of reasoning about complex systems when intentionally supported to do so. It is important for students to begin engaging in systems thinking from an early age, and climate science is an ideal topic area for cultivating these analytic abilities. For example, students can learn about the webs of interdependent relationships in a coral reef, and how warming ocean temperatures (caused by Climate Change) can result in the removal of a key relationship within this system. Use of the NGSS's Crosscutting Concepts can help students with systems thinking. To understand how these Crosscutting Concepts connect with Climate Science, visit our "Fundamental Climate Principles for Elementary Teachers" page.