School bus

Dominika Parry lived in Poland, then several U.S. states before settling in Mississippi. There she found that many people knew very little about climate change, and viewed it as just a political issue. As an environmental economist, she felt compelled to help …

Parry: “… because nobody else wants to. People are afraid that they’re going to be fired. People are afraid that socially they’re going to be ostracized.”

Most young people have yet to form strong political views, so she worked with local educators to develop a middle school curriculum. It includes climate science and describes local impacts.

In July, Parry began training science teachers to use the curriculum. She says their levels of knowledge vary dramatically. For example, many mistakenly believe a hole in the ozone layer causes climate change. It doesn’t. And one asked, “What is a sea level?”

Parry: “This was one of those moments when I realized, okay, I have no idea really what some of the people have in their heads. We had to explain what sea level is before we can talk about what sea-level rise is.”

Most teachers she’s trained plan to use the curriculum this spring.

Parry: “Eventually I really, really hope that kids will bring that information to their homes, to their communities, and hopefully make a change.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...