The South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, Nelson Mandela, once said: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built.” Mandela’s quote highlights how important it is that we educate our younger generations, for they will be the future leaders of tomorrow. One of the most pressing issues facing society today revolves around climate change, a topic that isn’t easy to explain to adults, let alone children. So what steps should we take to ensure that younger generations understand the deleterious effects of global warming on the environment? It’s vital that we provide foundational information at an early age so that future generations will better understand, and therefore be better equipped, to tackle the problem. Luckily, there are many online resources specifically catered towards children to provide this very foundation from which they may act upon in the future. If you yourself are a parent, or have younger siblings, nieces or nephews, then these sources are a great place to start to educate the children in your life!
The New York Times provides a great introduction to climate change in an easily digestible manner that is free to access using your associated UC Berkeley account. Written by Julia Rosen and illustrated by Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, this guide takes the form of vivid side-scrolling watercolor illustrations interspersed with guiding questions and thoughtful answers. Grounded in real-world examples such as pollution generated from food production and cars, Rosen provides background on the issue of climate change, what it means for our future and possible ways to reverse such a dim trajectory. Rosen also presents the important social equity issues concerns related to climate change, such as its disproportionate impact on lower-income households and neighborhoods. Though climate change is certainly a grim matter, Rosen’s story concludes with an optimistic take on “The Better Future,” one in which society makes the choice to correct its mistakes and heal past injustices.
Riffing on the “-logy” suffix which means “the study of,” the American Museum of Natural History has created OLogy to provide an interactive science website for curious kids to study all types of science, ranging from anthropology to zoology and of course climate change. The OLogy climate change section contains hands-on activities, such as making a terrarium to see the greenhouse effect, or playing online games such as “Rising CO2” which explores the connection between technology, population and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. One of the highlights of OLogy is the “Ask a Scientist About Our Environment” section, which fields questions from kids to be answered by various scientists working with the American Museum of Natural History.
The wide vastness of the starlit sky and the unknown nature of outer space feeds the dreams of many a kid to become an astronaut. The National Aeronautics and Space Association, better known as NASA, capitalizes on such curiosity by presenting a view of climate change from their perspective as a space agency. NASA utilizes information from its various satellite missions and presents it in a kid-friendly way through ClimateKids. This resource allows kids the opportunity to get answers to “Big Questions” (i.e. “What is the Greenhouse Effect?”, “How do we know the climate is changing?”, etc.) and learn more about the different components of the climate (i.e. the atmosphere, water, energy, plants and animals). Any kid fascinated by space exploration will find NASA’ s educational tools engaging!
As the threat of climate change continues to grow, it’s becoming even more important to ensure that younger generations, who are the heirs to the future conditions of our planet, are made aware of the problem and its relation to science as a tool to solve the crisis. These online resources are a great starting point for instruction, but don’t forget to break up screen time with an afternoon at the park, where a deeper appreciation for the environment may also be cultivated.