TILclimate Guides for Educators
Flexible, ready-to-use climate change activities from MIT
TILclimate guides for educators are developed by the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative as an extension of our TILclimate (Today I Learned: Climate) podcast, to make it easier for you to teach climate change, earth science, and energy topics in the classroom. The short (10-15 minute), science-driven episodes of TILclimate can be used as a substitution for a lecture, a supplemental introduction to a unit, and more. Episodes of TILclimate and the associated educator guides are designed to further student understanding of multiple interlocking aspects of climate change, with a particular focus on solutions.
In each educator guide, you will find a series of activities that can be taught individually or all together, including:
- One or more short introductory activities for group learning (10-25 minutes)
- Data-driven deeper dives using trusted visualization and analysis tools (20-45 minutes)
- Activities that invite students to think about how they would share their learning with family and friends
- Teacher pages that provide setup instructions, discussion questions, background resources, a summary of relevant skills, standards and disciplinary core ideas, and adaptation suggestions for science, social science, and ELA teachers
Educator guides are available for these episodes of TILclimate:
TIL about planes
How much of an impact does air travel have on climate change? What can be done about it? Through a hands-on demonstration and a short literature review, students consider the impacts and future of aviation. With data, students consider why climate communicators and scientists focus on carbon dioxide.
TIL about clouds
How do clouds form? How are clouds affected by (and how do they affect) climate change? Students create a cloud in the classroom, and then investigate climate models and real-time cloud observation data.
TIL about materials
Our modern world uses many different materials, often complexly constructed and difficult to recycle. Students investigate the elements in a smartphone and innovations in cement and steel. They also consider the challenge of communicating about large and complex numbers.
TIL about hurricanes
Hurricanes are a fact of life for millions of Americans each year, and billions more people around the world. What is a hurricane, and how can we prepare for them? Through a model and student-level data, students explore the factors influencing storm frequency and intensity. They also consider the language of storms, as well as steps to resilience.
TIL about uncertainty
Earth's climate system is enormously complex, and scientists develop climate models to understand how climate change will play out in different parts of the world. Students play a climate resilience game, and then explore the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 5th Assessment Report to learn more about how climate scientists handle uncertainty in models.
TIL about climate impacts
We hear about climate impacts all over the world, often in global terms. But what is happening where? And what will happen in our own communities? Students play a game to understand changes to precipitation. Then, using the US Climate Resilience Toolkit, they investigate local climate concerns and solutions.
TIL about carbon pricing
Carbon pricing, including cap-and-trade and carbon taxes, is one tool in the toolbox governments have to reduce the impacts of climate change. What kind of a tool is it? After an introduction to carbon pricing, students use an online simulator to investigate multiple pathways to a cooler future.
TIL about geoengineering
Geoengineering includes a host of technologies and practices that seek to reduce the amount of heat trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. Some of these technologies could have significant side effects that are not well understood. Who decides when or how to engineer the Earth’s atmosphere?
TIL what I can do
Many of us want to do something to help slow or prepare for climate change. But what exactly can we do? Students are guided through an activity to find an action or idea that fits their skills, interests, and motivations. Then, students have a conversation about climate change with a friend or family member and reflect on the process.
TIL about the electric grid
The electric grid is an invisible and yet deeply necessary part of modern life. Through a game, students understand the challenges of keeping the grid balanced. Students explore two map-based datasets to explain why and how the grid stays balanced. A deeper dive into their own local electric grid makes the learning relevant.
TIL about fossil fuels
Fossil fuels are used throughout our world. Why are they called that, and where do they come from? What are the impacts of their extraction, distribution, and use? Fossil fuels are at the center of a lot of big questions. Students develop and answer their own specific, testable questions using a data visualization website.
TIL about energy and electricity
While the terms energy and electricity are often used interchangeably in daily life, understanding the distinction helps students better evaluate energy-related climate solutions. Students explore US energy and electricity data from 2001-2018 to distinguish between the terms and understand their future.
TIL about wind and solar power
Wind and solar power are key tools in the climate change toolkit—but what are their strengths and weaknesses? Can they provide us with all the clean electricity we need? Students investigate wind and solar resources and electricity needs. Then, they research the growing field of energy storage and share their results with a key audience.
TIL about energy efficiency
Saving energy reduces current fossil fuel use, makes the transition to non-carbon energy sources easier, and often makes buildings more comfortable to be in. A qualitative energy efficiency audit, combined with an interview with a facilities manager for the school, allows students to explore options to reduce energy use in the classroom. A quantitative energy audit provides students with data to present to school decision-makers.
TIL about nuclear power
The use of nuclear power is controversial in some places, and commonplace in others. How do we estimate risk when making choices about how to generate energy? What are the effects of those choices? Through a series of activities, students learn about risk perception and investigate real data about the intersection of energy use, energy production, and carbon dioxide emissions around the world.
TIL about carbon capture
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilization (CCU) are growing technologies. In a hands-on chemistry lab, students can produce a key ingredient in low-carbon concrete. Through reading, discussion, and data exploration, students investigate the future and potential for CCS as one tool in our toolbox to slow climate change.
TIL about fusion energy
Fusion energy has great potential to be an almost-limitless low-carbon energy source. However, scientists haven't yet been able to harness its power. Through a model, a virtual tour, and a research project, students investigate the question: what is the potential of fusion energy, and what part could it play in our future?
TIL about cleaning up clean tech
Solar panels, wind turbines, and other ‘green’ technologies are an important part of a low-carbon future. What are the environmental and human impacts of these technologies, and how can we reduce or eliminate them? Students investigate the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the concept of supply chains.
TIL about the city of the future
What will the future look like? More importantly, what do we want it to look like? In this highly flexible culminating project, students work as a whole class to plan, design, evaluate, construct, and present their vision for a City of the Future.
This activity is a culminating project for a unit on climate change. It is not a standalone activity.
TIL what Americans think about climate change
When discussing climate change in the media, we are often presented with two opinions: either climate change is happening, or it is not. The reality of American opinion is much more complex. After an introduction to media literacy, students explore data from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
TIL about sea level rise, part 1
Through a hands-on demonstration, students will gain a clear understanding of the two major factors influencing sea level rise: land ice melt and thermal expansion. Additional solutions-oriented background information expands real-world connections.
TIL about sea level rise, part 2
Following up on the demonstrations in Today I Learned About Sea Level Rise, Part 1, Dive Deeper assignments lead students to explore data related to the impacts of thermal expansion, land ice melt, storm surge, and high-tide flooding. Teams of students each learn about these topics and bring their learning together in a jigsaw.
TIL about national security
Changes to the climate have had and will have dramatic effects on natural disasters, mass movement, and government stability. The ability of governments, organizations, and leaders to plan for, adapt to, and prevent natural disasters will shape the future. In this set of activities, students model changes in climate and their effects on international relations, investigate local climate impacts and solutions, and observe global climate patterns and adaptations.
TIL about removing CO2 from the atmosphere
Carbon dioxide is increasing in Earth’s atmosphere as humans burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. While technology is being developed that can remove CO2 from the air, it is an engineering challenge. Students model the challenge of carbon capture and graph the historic rise in carbon dioxide as observed at Mauna Loa, Hawai’i.
TIL about planting trees
Forests can be an important part of a lower-carbon future—but how does that work? Students experience the carbon cycle as a carbon atom, grounding their understanding of the flux of carbon between earth, air, water, and living things. Using data from Global Forest Watch, students investigate regional and global patterns of forest loss, gain, and carbon emissions to answer the questions: should we plant trees as a solution to climate change? Does location matter? How do we know?
TIL about farming a warmer planet
How are farmers affected by climate change? And how do farms affect climate change? Agriculture is at the intersection of many climate impacts. Students investigate plant hardiness zone shifts, and then read case studies about agroecology.
TIL about what I eat
Climate change affects food, but food also affects climate change. Students investigate causes of and solutions to food waste, plant-based recipes to get excited about, and the diversity and variety of heirloom foods.
TIL what it costs
As discussed in the podcast episode, financial investments are needed to both slow down climate change and prepare for climate impacts. Students investigate projects and data to learn about the opportunities of multisolving to make smart decisions for our future.
TIL about the changing ocean
Modern climate change is causing our ocean to warm and changing the ocean’s chemistry. Students directly experience the ability of cold and warm water to uptake carbon dioxide and learn about ocean acidification. They explore the role of the ocean in the climate and one tool scientists use to understand ocean warming. Then, they are challenged to communicate one of the Ocean Literacy Principles to a chosen audience.
TIL about hydrogen energy
Hydrogen has the potential to replace fossil fuels in many sectors of the economy. Students learn about how (and where) hydrogen can be produced from renewable energy, how batteries and fuel cells work, and where hydrogen could replace fossil fuels. They are challenged to explain batteries and fuel cells to another audience.
TIL about electric cars
Electric vehicles (EVs) hold great promise for a lower-emissions future – but just how much promise? Students investigate the emissions associated with EV use in different parts of the US. Then, they learn about the air pollution impacts of gas and diesel vehicles and design a communication project to reduce exposure at school.
TIL about everyday travel
The future of transportation includes multiple modes and ways of thinking about how we get around. Students learn about Complete Streets, tackle urban street design, and design their own transit system for an imaginary city.
TIL about carbon offsets
Countries, companies and even individuals can pay for carbon offsets to reach “carbon neutral” or “net zero” targets. Students investigate carbon dioxide distribution, what carbon offsets are, the history of the Kyoto Protocol, and how forest health interacts with carbon offset claims.
TIL about winter storms
We know Earth is warming, so why do we still get extreme winter storms? Students learn about albedo, climate, weather, the jet stream, and the polar vortex through hands-on demonstrations, data visualizations, and reading scientific writing.
Image credit: remixed from a photo by Todd Van Hoosear via Flickr