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Creating Projects for the Planet: Climate Action Education for PK-12 Classrooms

Colorado Convention Center, 111/13

Listen and learn: Edtalk
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Executive Director
Take Action Global
Dr. Jennifer Williams has dedicated herself for 25 years to the field of education through her roles as an education activist, professor, school administrator, literacy specialist, and classroom teacher. As an educator and author of the ISTE book, Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good, she champions teachers to use educational technology purposefully for the planet and its people​. She is the co-founder of TeachSDGs and the non-profit organization Take Action Global. Connect with Jennifer on Twitter at @JenWilliamsEdu and at
#TheRealCareerUpgrade - Former District Technology Coordinator now classroom teacher, Brandie is a STEM Educator for a micro-school in Norfolk, Virginia. Brandie strives to bring the highest level of engagement, innovation, and creativity to her learners. Her passion projects include working with Amazon Future Engineer: Your Voice Is Power, ProjectSTEM, Coding Club for Girls with ImagiLabs and Black Girls Code, and partnering with local innovation labs and organizations for community learning experiences. Brandie is also an Instructional Coach for the ISTE-GM AI Explorations Course and a member of the Cult of Pedagogy Tech Guide Team.
Senior Program Strategist
Take Action Global
ISTE Certified Educator
As an edtech working mom of five, I have mastered the art of multitasking. I can create content, facilitate a virtual learning session, and break up a sibling argument all while keeping a pot off coffee brewing. When I'm not revolutionizing the education system, you can find me binge-reading educational documentaries and trying to convince my kids to appreciate the beauty of a well-organized lesson plan.

Session description

Looking for ways to inspire your students to become instruments of positive change? Join this inspired session to learn ways to fuel the collaborative classroom and empower students to take action for the planet and its people. The latest research and trends around climate education in practice will be provided.

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this session is to showcase ways educators can integrate climate action education across the curriculum through global collaboration and inquiry. Topics and examples will share programs and projects that allow students at every age and across all content areas to examine local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions around sustainable development and environmental literacy.

Climate action education instructional design priorities:
- global collaboration
- digital agency and action
- project-based learning
- equity, access, and inclusion
- recognition of learning

Alignments of the ISTE Standards will be aligned to instructional practices as outlined in the ISTE book by one of the presenters: Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good, connecting to ISTE Standards for Educators and ISTE Standards for Students.

Global Collaborator: Session participants will engage with programs that assemble and mobilize communities of global classrooms to take action for the planet by using digital technologies to connect, share ideas, learn from global experts, and get feedback through multiple perspectives.

Innovative Designer: Session participants will explore ways students can intentionally use the design process to generate ideas and possible solutions to a relevant problem, select technology tools and resources to support progress, and work from phases of inspiration to ideation to implementation as Innovative Designers.

Knowledge Constructor: Session participants will discover ways to support students as Knowledge Constructors in their effective use of data-driven research and in their roles as critical consumers of information and resources during the process of creating connections in the learning process.

Designer. Participants will engage in a process of critical inquiry during the course of the session to examine ways they can use technology, innovative instructional practices, and the design process to personalize learning for students.

Models/programs to be shared include:
1. Environmental literacy, climate education, service learning
2. Education for Sustainable Development (and UN Global Goals)
3. Human-centered design
4. Asset Based Community Development
5. Social good global collaboration projects, including the Climate Action Project, Climate Action Schools, and Climate Action Day
6. Community education programs, including Project Kakuma (Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya)
7. EarthProject app and Climate Action Booklist for Classrooms
8. Digital badging and credentialing

Evidence of success will be indicated through creation of a digital toolkit for implementation in the classroom.

Presenters will use an interactive, multimedia presentation to engage audience members. Open discussion will further encourage attendee participation through sharing, dialogue, and exploration of topics. Weblinks, digital graphics, and video will be used to model concepts. New digital technologies that allow educators to connect and collaborate will be demonstrated and then attendees will be invited to participate in discussion, inquiry, and discovery of practice and perspective.

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5 minutes Welcome, introductions, overview
5 minutes Review objectives of session
5 minutes Define: What is climate action education?
15 minutes Inspiration: What is possible? Project exemplars, showcase global examples
15 minutes Ideation: How to get started and take action? Guided action
process, connecting climate action across the curriculum
- device-based activity to curate a collection of ideas
10 minutes Implementation: What supports are available to ensure equitable access to climate education? Build your toolkit with resources, tech
tools, projects, and organizations, time for Q&A (through use of
interactive technologies)
5 minutes Closing: Let’s keep the conversation going!

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Supporting research

In Fall 2022, Take Action Global led research efforts inviting teams at
EARTHDAY.ORG and Shift Sustainability to join in research to examine the role of
climate educators around the world: the challenges faced, how they overcome
them, what approaches are working, and what else is needed to ensure effective
climate action education.

In-depth interviews with 14 climate change educators and experts from 10
countries informed the design of a global survey that was conducted in October
2022, which returned 1,012 usable responses from 38 countries. Survey
respondents included classroom teachers, department heads, principals and
librarians, as well as those working in educator roles in wider organizations,
including nature centers and government departments around the world.

Our research sought to address these questions:
● How does the role of teachers as climate educators work in practice, in
classrooms around the world?
● What are the challenges faced, and how are they overcome?
● Which approaches appear to be working for educators already engaged
with climate action in their communities?
● What else is needed to ensure effective climate action education?

Key findings indicated that:
- Teachers want cross-curriculum projects with real-life impact that allow
climate action to be present in students’ everyday lives.
- There are perceptions of a significant disconnect between teachers and
educational leadership in the work of taking action around climate change,
with classroom teachers leading the charge in climate action education.

- 71% of the sample wanted to see more promotion of climate education on
a national level, only 5% believed that support from their government was
currently effective.
- More than half of all participants who stated any experience or knowledge
of climate education said they would like to see more action from
principals and school leaders (53%).

Through this study, we identified the five key themes:

1. Inconsistent climate education terminology creates barriers to
2. Where teachers have control, they can overcome challenges – but they
need more help to go further.
3. Educators need more support from local and national policymakers.
4. Innovative approaches are needed to motivate students and young
5. Parents and the wider community play a key supporting role.
While assessing these individual themes, a key component of the overall impact
of student outcomes was connected to the robustness and alignment of a
cohesive climate action learning program being implemented within the learning
environment. As climate action has been identified as a community learning
outcome, engagement is key in the development and delivery of a successful
learning opportunity across cultural and global contexts. This research, along
with other studies, acts to build upon the body of knowledge around the topic of
climate action education.

Climate Literacy Petition (Fridays for the Future, EarthDay Org, Take Action Global, 2022, for worldwide access to climate literacy and education programs to ensure a holistic understanding of the ongoing climate and biodiversity crisis and its underlying causes and consequences; supporting a fully integrated, assessed climate and environmental education that will facilitate the development of sustainable innovations and solutions and empower students to actively engage in creating a just, sustainable society; supporting climate and environmental education programs that ensure:

- Access. All schools and universities must include climate change related courses in their programs.
- Equity. Climate education must be available for everyone at every level of education, regardless of their ethnicity, age, sex, or social status.
- Availability. Climate literacy programs should be accessible both on-line and off-line, through education platforms which will bring knowledge both to students, teachers, and adults, beyond borders.
- Integration Across Disciplines. Climate education must be integrated into the core values and content across the curriculum. Students must learn about the scientific, social, and ethical dimensions of the climate crisis.
- Professional Training and Professional Development. All education professionals must be trained in climate education and be provided with lesson schemes and teaching materials.
- Support for Climate Anxiety. Education institutions must provide the tools and support to help teachers and learners cope with climate anxiety and mental health issues.
- Active Citizenship. Education institutions must engage and provide students opportunities for active citizenship to take responsibility for nature and society.
- Innovation and Infrastructure. Education institutions must be innovators. Schools must be NET0 by 2030 and all newly built schools must be emissions-free.

Creative Commons recently published "A Landscape Analysis of Open Climate Data" :

The research for this report started with a fundamental question: “What climate data exists, and what can I do with it?” To reach an answer, CC conducted a landscape analysis to better understand the permissible uses of existing large climate data sets. We surveyed a range of organizations that provide climate data on behalf of national, intergovernmental and/or global populations and are both publishers and sources of climate data. This approach enabled us to assess the current status of major sources of climate data and propose practical ways in which it can be shared more effectively.

Supporting research
Aspen Institute (n.d.). K12 climate action plan. Aspen Institute.

Bean, C. (2014) The Accidental Instructional Designer: Learning Design for the Digital Age. Association of Talent Development.

Dirksen, J. (2015). Design for How People Learn (2nd edition) by Julie Dirksen. New Riders.

Klein, J. D. (2017). Global Education Guidebook: Humanizing K-12 Classrooms Worldwide through Equitable Partnerships. Solution Tree Press.

Jensen, V (2021). Getting every school climate-ready: How countries are integrating Climate change issues in education. UNESCO.

Kwauk, C. (2021, August). Roadblocks to quality education in a time of climate change. Brookings.

Kwauk, C., & Casey, O. (2021). A new green learning agenda: Approaches to quality education for climate action. Center for Universal Education at Brookings.

Kwauk, C., & Winthrop, R. (2021, August 12). Unleashing the creativity of teachers and students to combat climate change: An opportunity for global leadership. Brookings.

Lawson, D. F., Stevenson, K., & Carrier, S. J. (2019, May). Children can foster climate change concern among their parents. Nature Climate Change, 9(6), 1-5.

NAAEE (2021). Identifying effective climate change education strategies. University of Florida.

OECD (2021, January). Green at fifteen: What schools can do to support the climate. Education and Skills Today.

Rost, L., Cooke, J., & Fergus, I. (2021). Reimagining climate education and youth leadership: Survey report. Sida.

Torralba, A., & Kwauk, C. (2021, December 8). New research: World fails in climate education despite urgent need to act. Education International.

UNESCO (2021). Learn for our planet. A global review of how environmental issues are integrated into education. UNESCO.

UNESCO (2021). Reimagining our futures together: A social contract for education. International Commission on the Futures of Education. UNESCO.

UNESCO (2021). Teachers have their say: motivation, skills and opportunities to teach education for sustainable development and global citizenship. UNESCO.

UNESCO. (2020). ACE national strategic planning framework for the United States. UNESCO.

UNESCO (2020). Education for sustainable development: A roadmap. UNESCO.

UNESCO. (2016). Action for climate empowerment: Guidelines for accelerating, training, and public awareness. UNFCCC-UNESCO.

United States Global Change Research Program (n.d.). National climate assessment.

Vander Ark, T., Liebtag, E., McClennen, N. (2020). The Power of Place: Authentic Learning through Place-Based Education. ASCD.

Williams, J. (2019). Teach boldly: Using edtech for social good. ISTE.

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Session specifications

Global collaboration
Grade level:
Skill level:
Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Attendee devices:
Devices useful
Attendee device specification:
Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Mac, Chromebook
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Subject area:
Social studies, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards:
For Educators:
  • Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
  • Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
For Students:
Global Collaborator
  • Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.