How Should Climate Change be Taught in Schools Across America?

Earth frowns. With a face of green and blue, the planet’s mood is blue, too — as unblinking eyes cast a somber stare.

Colored with crayons, this drawing is the schoolwork of Maya, a fifth grader from the United States. At the top sits a title: “Greenhouse Gas Effect.” Piercing Earth’s atmosphere, sharp arrows represent solar radiation, which for the most part remain trapped as heat by a ring of gases aptly shaded green. While a patchwork of flags from around the world makes for a vibrant backdrop, it can’t detract from the dismal mood. To punctuate the point with urgency, there’s a red explosion with all caps in black: “EXTREME!”

Even the sun seems sad.

Kids like Maya are growing up in a world set to face the worst of climate change. As dire warnings pour out from research scientists and indigenous peoples around the globe, many U.S. teachers don’t mention our planet’s fever in the classroom — and think tanks and fossil fuel companies that deny the scientific consensus on climate promote junk lessons to instructors who do.