Book Club Ideas

A BOOK CLUB OR A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY BASED ON A BOOK CAN BE WONDERFUL COLLEGIAL LEARNING EXPERIENCE. Together, you can seek out new perspectives, tools, and practices to try out in your classrooms. The chapters in the Teaching Climate Change book are meant to be inspirational but just as importantly they describe ideas that are actionable—they can be embodied in the work you do with young learners.

We can learn in at least four ways from book clubs:

  1. Reading and analyzing the chapters in light of your own experiences.
  2. Hearing how others are making sense of the chapters, what their take-aways are, how they respond to your interpretations.
  3. Reflecting together how ideas in each chapter make sense (or not) within the context of broader themes that run through the book.
  4. Testing ideas from these chapters in your classroom, either by modifying curriculum, trying out innovative activities with students, or just having new kinds of conversation with them. The outcomes can then shared with peers.

As you design your own book club experience, it would be helpful to build in as many of these opportunities as you can.

Setting up the book club

Who should be invited? It can be helpful to ask instructional coaches—perhaps ELL or science specialists from the school or district, and assistant principals or principals. And don’t forget faculty who teach in areas other than science! They may be eager to learn more and perhaps even partner with you in developing cross-disciplinary experiences for students.

There can be different pathways through the Teaching Climate Change book, however I do recommend that you start by reading the first three chapters because these really set the stage for the later chapters, in whatever order you choose to read them. Chapter 1 provides the global and historical context of climate change and the role of educators in addressing the crisis with youth. Chapter 2 lays out a broad vision and framework of what is possible in our classrooms at elementary, middle school and high school levels. Chapter 3 will “raise the floor” for members of your book club in terms of background science knowledge—just high enough for everyone to make good sense of what is in the rest of the chapters, including some of the more recent science findings.

To help with decision about pathways through the rest of the book, have members look at the end of Chapter 1, where all the chapters are described briefly. Then decide which ones might be moved up in the order of reading, for example, your group may really want to understand Chapter 10 and its 3-part focus on climate anxiety, how to preserve emotional well-being (yours and the students’), and activism. Strange bedfellows, right? But there is a reason they were grouped together. Chapter 10 then, if a good candidate for splitting up and being the focus for perhaps two different club meetings, one focused on how to talk to students about coping with emotions, and another on all the forms and purposes that activism can take. Chapter 3 on the basic science could also be split up as you see fit, as could Chapter 4 on solutions.

If you split any chapters up, you could all do a supplemental reading of interest or website analysis in addition to part of the book chapter.

Don’t read and discuss more than one chapter at a meeting. From our experiences with the Ambitious Science Teaching book, there are more ideas in a single chapter than can be discussed, in depth, at a 90-minute book club meeting.

Even if your members are used to being part of group discussions and are good at listening to each other, it can still be a good idea to have somebody lead the meeting, in part to make sure that everyone’s voices get heard but also to come prepared with thoughts on what topics would be good to discuss.

Have a fixed day, time, and location to meet. A reminder a few days ahead can be useful.

Consider posing two questions for everyone to think about as they read—one of these being about synthesizing the ideas in the chapter and another being about potential applications of those ideas to your own professional work.

Remember, you can suggest to others a companion resource to a chapter (listen to a podcast, check a website, a piece of curriculum) and dive a bit deeper into how these might inform your thinking about working with students.

Bringing treats sets the tone for a nice collegial discussion.

During the meetings

Everyone in the book club should contribute to making the discussion flow, don’t leave all the responsibility up to the moderator. The moderator’s role (with everyone else’s help) is to:

Make people welcome. If there are new members, make sure they are introduced. Make sure everyone knows their opinion is valid and carries equal weight, whether they’re a teaching veteran or new to your school. Above all, keep pleasure at the heart of every meeting.

If there is a need, refresh people’s memories on your club’s ground rules—not all of them, just any where there have been issues. A minute or two on this can be time well spent. If you or other members feel there has been a problem in earlier meetings (e.g. one person dominating the conversation or too much off-topic conversation), this is the appropriate time to remind people what was previously agreed upon, rather than having to confront participants during the meeting.

Even though the group might have read a chapter with a couple focal questions in mind, consider asking participants to start by freely describe what they thought was interesting or puzzling in the chapter. This makes sure that everybody’s voice is heard early on, it will give you a feel as to how the conversation will go, and what areas are most likely to be of interest to everyone.

Keep the meeting on track—digressions are fine but if the conversation strays too far off topic it’s the moderator’s job to bring it back.
It is quite likely that you won’t get through all the potential topics you’ve thought of for discussion. If the conversation is flowing well it will naturally expand from the original topic into other interesting areas.

Someone other than the moderator should keep notes. The best way to ensure continuity in everyone’s growing knowledge is to keep track of guiding questions, group take-aways, ideas to try out in classrooms, and more. It may be interesting to ask the whole group a couple of times over the course of the book club to respond to this prompt “My thoughts or big questions are changing in this way…

Trying out new ideas between meetings

Select an idea that one or more book club members could translate into action (the design or modification of an upcoming unit or a new instructional strategy, use of a new resource). This is tricky because it helps to read the chapter first and discuss it with peers, then try things out in the following week or two. So if a participant wants to try things out and report back to the group, it may be “off cycle” for the chapter being discussed, but that’s OK, keep it loose. You could also agree, as a group, to have an experimental week where, instead of meeting, you all agree to try something out from the book, collect some data or student artifacts, then reserve the following meeting to talk about the outcomes.

For example, after reading Chapter 4—Solutions: Helping students envision sustainability and resilience—a book club participant might have students map out where different types of solutions are being tried out in their own communities. How do these “solutions” work? Students may try to figure out if these efforts involve mitigation or adaptation. Are there tradeoffs in terms of costs and benefits (spoiler alert: yes, always)?

This teacher should think of how to collect evidence of students’ participation, what they find out, and what sense they make of the activity (through journal reflections, exit slips, video of whole class conversations, student-drawn models, etc). These can be brought back to the group, analyzed, and discussed.

Chapter 1 : The Leap

  1. This chapter describes how preparing yourself to teach about climate change is unlike preparation for other kinds of topics. Can you put these differences in your own words or add to the list in the text?
  2. This chapter describes how educators are uniquely positioned to assume leadership in climate change awareness and action within their communities. What is the role of educators who are willing to “take the leap?”

Chapter 2: A Vision For Climate Change Teaching

  1. How are knowledge-building communities (KBCs), like the three classrooms described in the chapter, similar to one another despite their students being so different in age? How are KBCs unlike other kinds of well-run classrooms?
  2. What is a first step educators could take to create KBCs that focus on climate change, regeneration, and resilience? Would it involve introducing classroom norms? Changing day-to-day practices or routines? Choosing unique phenomena to study together? Different goals for lessons and units? Building different relationships with the students? Something else that comes first?

Chapter 3.1 Note: All 5 sub-chapters are about natural systems. Try checking out the cross-cutting concepts of systems and system models, and stability and change in the Next Generation Science Standards or in your own state standards. You could talk briefly about what you want your students to understand about these two concepts. You should also talk about what is expected of students in the grade levels just above and below yours.

Chapter 3.2: Where It All Starts: The Greenhouse Effect

  1. What part of the student model, shown on page 41, is still puzzling to us in terms of the science? Where do we have gaps in our own understanding or places we could go deeper?
  2. If you were to teach about the GHE in upper elementary, what kinds of science ideas would you include? How would this differ from a unit being taught for freshmen in high school?
  3. Would you include who is putting GHGs into the atmosphere? Differences in carbon footprints between those in affluent countries and those in the Global South? Why or why not?

Chapter 3.3: Carbon Cycling Where It Stays And Where It’s Going

  1. Teachers often talk with students about the carbon cycle, but not in the context of climate change. What should be added to a “traditional” series of lessons if your goal is to have students use their knowledge of the carbon cycle to more deeply understand climate change and how GHGs will affect our future?
  2. Try using the bathtub image in this IPCC report with students. See if you can think of a basic question for students about what the tub’s dynamics represent. Then talk about a more challenging question for students.

Chapter 3.4: No Place Is Too Remote: Our Oceans And Cryosphere

  1. See if you can take an iconic idea like sea level rise and connect it to as many other events and processes as possible from the chapter. This may help prompt systems thinking.
  2. How might you design a unit on oceans and the cryosphere so that it challenges students to develop data fluency? Explore what data and visualizations are available on websites by NOAA, NASA, WMO and others.
  3. If focusing on data fluency in a unit, how might you also foster epistemic agency in students as they seek data to make and discuss claims, to frame new kinds of questions they see as relevant to their future?

Chapter 3.5: Ecosystems & Why We Care About Biodiversity

  1. Can you put into your own words why biodiversity is so important in living systems (beyond survival of individual organisms) and even more so in this time of climate change?
  2. Can you identify a local ecosystem that is at risk from climate change, saying how individual organisms are threatened and how the ecosystem as a set of relationships is also at risk?
  3. Connected to question #2, were there Indigenous communities that once called this land home? How might this impact the ways in which we teach about ecosystems and the land?

Chapter 3.6: Weather Extremes And The Human Niche

  1. In your book club you may have educators from a variety of backgrounds, biology, conservation ecology, physics, engineering, Earth sciences, chemistry. How might some of the ideas in this chapter be studied in each of these knowledge domains?
  2. How might you scaffold a classroom discussion about Figure 3.6.1? Should a student discussion end with understanding the figure itself or would you ask further questions about what the data imply for the future Can you find other kinds of representations that show similar data but in a different way? (think “stripes”)
  3. How are weather extremes tied to issues of social justice?

Chapter 4: Solutions: Helping Students Envision Sustainability & Resilience

  1. There are so many types of regeneration and resilience strategies? How would you categorize them in ways that make sense to you? Would you emphasize certain categories of these in the courses and grade levels you teach?
  2. Why is “solutions” not an appropriate word for the mitigations (regeneration) and adaptations (resilience) this chapter describes?
  3. How might you design a place-based unit in which you examine a set of regeneration and resilience strategies in your own neighborhood. What are the trade-offs? What are the co-benefits of these strategies?

Chapter 5: Dealing With Disinformation And Skepticism

  1. Does this chapter provide any guidance for you in dealing with denial or skepticism in your own classrooms? What might that be?
  2. If all your book club members teach in the same school, what might be common shared responses among you when students voice skepticism? Should there be shared/similar responses?

Chapter 6: It Matters How You Frame The Story

  1. This chapter has three parts: Telling a human story, Connecting Humans To The Environment And The Chain Of Life That Affects Us All , and Pushing Toward Explanations That Reflect Social Justice. How do you see these three parts as related and building upon one another?
  2. Indigenous worldviews are not identical around the world, but do have some features in common. They view humans as related to and in reciprocal relationships with the other more-than-human members of living systems, they see respectful stewardship of the land and connectedness to it as vital for sustainability. How might we introduce these ideas in our classrooms and have honest discussions about how they compare with other worldviews in which humans are superior to and separate from other forms of life, the land is treated as a site for extraction of valuable commodities and to otherwise serve human needs at all costs?
  3. How might we introduce histories of colonization (it is still going on, it is not “in the past”) and how it set the stage for climate change? Can we engage our social studies or language arts colleagues in co-supporting these discussions?

Chapter 7: How Do We Know That Happened? Reconstructing The Past To Understand The Present

  1. According to the chapter, what does it mean to re-construct the past?
  2. This is perfect place to talk about uncertainty regarding data itself, scientific models, and the future. How might you start such a discussion using ideas from both chapters?
  3. Check out Carbon Brief Interactive: What kinds of data is being collected in your region and for what purposes? How could this be used in your classroom?

Chapter 8: Our Possible Future(s): Data Visualizations And Climate Models As Sensemaking Tools

  1. Bring an example of a complicated visualization that you might like to use with students. Share it and comment on how you might scaffold their understanding of the data patterns embodied in it.
  2. What are the different ways that past, present, and future models work together to help us make sense of climate change phenomena?
  3. Skeptics often say that models are almost always “wrong” and therefore we should not trust them. How might you bring up this idea to students and help them understand why models are integral to all science?

Chapter 9: Helping Students Show What They Know: Building Models And Explanations

  1. Check out the Chapter Updates section of the website and look at the example student models there. When we ask students to create models of CC phenomena, how does this become especially challenging compared to representing other everyday phenomena?
  2. What parts of the chapter helped spark a new idea about supporting models and explanation-building with students?
  3. How are creating models and explanations together supported within a knowledge-building community?
  4. What kinds of modeling and explanation-building have you tried in the past with students? What lessons learned might you share with the group?

Chapter 10: Activism And Self-Care For The Long Haul

  1. Given what information is in this chapter and on this website (do look at the Chapter updates for 10a and 10b), how might you map out different kinds of support for students’ emotional responses to climate change during a unit or a course on climate change?
  2. What do you feel you still need more information on and why?
  3. What kinds of collaborative activism are conceivable for your students? How can you help them learn about the options and the kinds of effects their activism efforts are intended to have?

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