Writing poems and interviewing family members might sound like assignments for a language arts class.

But a Washington State-based nonprofit called IslandWood is helping middle school science teachers weave these sorts of activities into their lessons about climate change.

“The focus of our work with teachers is … connecting the learning, the teaching they’re doing in the classroom, to their local place: their community, their students, the interesting identities of the students, the local ecosystems,” says Brad Street, IslandWood’s senior manager of professional development.

In one teacher-training course that his group offers, instructors focus on the problem of flooding in Washington’s Snohomish River Valley.

They model lessons that middle school teachers can take back to their own classes — from analyzing local seasonal streamflow data to interviewing elders about how things have changed over their lifetime.

“Students see how science is actually relevant in their own place, to their own culture, to their community, to who they are,” Street says. “And they see that they can take that knowledge and do something with it, ideally.”

He says that local, personal perspective can make them more excited to learn about a global problem like climate change — and eager to help their communities respond.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media