As the Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education, Mark McCaffrey works to ensure that climate change is taught in schools. But he did not always grasp the issue’s significance.

MCCAFFREY: “I remember teaching an environmental science course in the mid-1990s. The textbook included climate change, but it was half a chapter out of like forty chapters, and so my feeling was: how important could this be if it’s hardly covered at all?”

As McCaffrey learned more, however, he became convinced that climate change is critical — and poorly taught in most classrooms.

McCaffrey: “The reality is that there’s 76 million students in the United States, and most of them graduate without ever learning the basics — the causes, effects, risks, and possible responses to human-caused climate change.”

McCaffrey recommends campus-wide sustainability education. In Virginia Beach, for example, new school buildings include solar panels, rainwater harvesting, and motion sensor lights.

McCaffrey: “And all of that can be transformed into teachable moments. You know, students really love learning in a building that’s like a living laboratory.”

McCaffrey believes all students should learn about the causes, consequences and solutions to climate change.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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National Center for Science Education

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is Editor of Yale Climate Connections. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as Assistant Director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission on Air Quality,...