Many educators want to contribute to action on issues related to climate change, and in recent years this has come to include the need to help our students feel less worried and more empowered. Climate change is a complex, multidimensional problem, as much as it is urgent. The magnitude of the issue, and its inevitability, have caused distress amongst adults and students. The term “climate anxiety” has emerged to describe a range of malaise amongst K-12 students such as worry, anger, dispassion, or hopelessness.  

A variety of curriculum approaches have addressed issues related to climate change, but these often focus on helping students to understand the problems or the science involved, or to engage in limited and disconnected forms of individual action. Many such designs have served to reinforce a passive perspective, in which students feel alienated from consequential decision-making and action.  

In 2020, the ENCORE research group at OISE/UT is starting up the Climate Action Learning Exchange (CALE). Our purpose is to support teachers in designing and exchanging curriculum activities and assessments that serve to empower students, connecting their learning to meaningful action, and supporting their own development of identity as citizens (including prospective careers that might connect to climate issues)

We are establishing a new online environment where educators from various communities can co-design and exchange curriculum and other resources that empower students and educators alike, to confront the realities of climate change. The Climate Action learning Exchange (CALE) will support educators from around the world in designing and exchanging curriculum that promotes collaboration and inquiry to address the scientific and social complexity of climate change, and critically disrupt passivity and alienation. These will be learning designs that give agency to students and teachers alike — providing a means of overcoming catastrophism and anxiety. 

CALE includes a number of complementary initiatives: 

  • Spring 2020: a small cohort of Ontario teachers forms to work on designing new curriculum or adapting existing designs, in preparation for enacting those designs in the coming school year (2020-21).
  • Summer 2020: A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) will be offered to thousands of teachers, internationally, titled “Designing and Sharing Climate Action Curriculum for K-12 Teachers”. The CALE online community will be featured within the MOOC.
  • Ongoing: CALE serves as a source of resources, design spaces, and completed curriculum for “positive climate action”, supporting a wide range of educators and educational contexts. 

An overarching goal for CALE is to serve as an open online space in which various communities of educators — including existing networks of climate change educators — can design and exchange curriculum, and reflect on pedagogy and practice.