The climate crisis is scary - how do we tell our kids about it?

(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

The Wildlife Trusts'  guides help children learn how nature can help tackle the climate crisis.

Anyone who grew up in the 1980s can hardly have remained untouched by the shadow of nuclear threat.

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For those who watched or even glimpsed the film Threads, indelible images remained for years to come – the mushroom cloud was enough to send some of us scurrying to bed.

Today’s children may be exposed to even more material online, but that doesn’t lessen the fear that some of the world’s alarming happenings can provoke in them.

Climate change is scary stuff for many adults; to a child’s mind it has the potential to be even more frightening.

So how do we balance the need to educate the next generation without overwhelming them?

Empowering youngsters to feel they can make a difference is one route.

As most primary schoolchildren returned to their classrooms this autumn, The Wildlife Trusts - a grassroots movement of 46 charities - unveiled new educational guides to help them learn how nature can help tackle the climate crisis.

“The interlinked climate and ecological crises present the biggest challenges ever faced by humanity,” said Dom Higgins, head of health and education, The Wildlife Trusts.

“This can be extremely daunting, especially for children with their whole lives ahead of them.

“In this crucial decade for determining the future climate, we want children and young people to understand how nature can help us while empowering them to take action in their communities. It’s so important teachers have access to engaging resources that give them confidence to teach these issues and that children, as well as adults, feel able to make a difference.”

Nature's Climate Heroes

The educational pack, Nature’s Climate Heroes, has been funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and is designed to help teachers of children aged from seven to 11 years old.

It is hoped the resources will help youngsters to understand the connections between the natural world, a changing climate and people.

At the heart of the project is a drive to address how climate change is taught in primary education by changing its focus from a scary and overwhelming subject to something that can be tackled through collective action.

It aims to empower children to take small but collectively significant actions in their communities.

And the scheme provides teachers with a structured and comprehensive guide to help deliver lessons about how human activities are connected to the changing climate, and why the restoration of nature is so important for our future.

Solutions to address climate change and wildlife loss should be fundamental to children’s education, say The Wildlife Trusts.

The movement wants to see changes to the school curriculum to ensure that teaching about nature and climate issues is commonplace across the education system.

The Wildlife Trusts want to see all children given opportunities to enjoy some lessons in natural spaces every week (Credit: Shutterstock)

Research shows 92 per cent of teachers are concerned about climate change

According to research in March by Teach the Future, a group campaigning for better climate education in schools, 70 per cent of UK teachers have not received adequate training to educate students on climate change.

The research found that 92 per cent of teachers are concerned about climate change.

However, 41 per cent say it is rarely or never mentioned in their schools and just five per cent say the issue is integral to many different aspects of the curriculum and teaching in their school.

Some 17 per cent say it’s mentioned in core subjects other than science and geography.

The Wildlife Trusts also want to see all children given opportunities to enjoy some lessons in natural spaces every week.

A study published in 2019 revealed that children’s well-being increased after they had spent time connecting with nature.

The Wildlife Trusts commissioned the research by the Institute of Education at University College London to evaluate the impact that experiencing nature has on children.

It focused on primary schoolchildren and the effects of Wildlife Trust-led activities on their well-being.

More than three quarters of children surveyed felt that their experience could help their schoolwork.Teachers, parents, carers and others can access the Nature’s Climate Heroes resources on Wildlife Watch, the junior branch of The Wildlife Trusts, by visiting http://www.wildlifewatch.org.uk/natures-climate-heroes.

They are designed for teachers but the lesson plans could be adapted for anyone who works with children.