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Climate Change and Regional Geography

Originally appears in the Spring 2008 issue

Rarely today do we open the newspaper or watch the news without coming across a mention of climate change. Predictions are that in the near future the warming of our planet will be one of the biggest political and social issues we will face. Students need to understand the science behind climate change as well as the effects it may have on their local area and their country. One way to incorporate this complex topic into our curricula is to pair climate change with the regional and national geography studies that students traditionally undertake in upper elementary school. Last year, as a teaching fellow in a sixth grade classroom, I was asked by my cooperating teacher to revamp what she saw as a stale and outdated geography curriculum. I decided to match climate change to the regional geography curriculum, thereby creating a more relevant and multidisciplinary unit to help students understand what climate change might look like in various regions of the United States. In the end, our students were not only better geographers and climate scientists; they were also motivated to take action on climate change issues.

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Talia Epstein has worked as an environmental educator and was a teaching fellow in Lara Ramsey’s sixth grade classroom at the Smith College Campus School in Northampton, Massachusetts. She currently coordinates a peer education program for drug and alcohol prevention in Ithaca, New York.