In an interview with “Colorado Matters,” Worth said she was inspired to write the book after visiting the Marshall Islands on a reporting assignment. She was amazed at how many students understood and spoke fluently about climate change. Since he was 6, one child has been learning about climate change every year in school. He and his classmates were able to discuss the causes of climate change, their global effects, as well as the dangers it poses to their Pacific Ocean island home.
Worth said that the high level student climate change knowledge was due to awareness outside of the classroom.
“The adults in the Marshall Islands know a lot about climate change just because it’s so relevant to their life,” she said.
One student’s family was considering moving to Enid, Okla. Worth wanted to know what the 9-year-old might learn about climate change in schools there if he were to relocate. After visiting the city and speaking to kids and teachers, Worth said four out of five students told her she was the first adult to utter the phrase “climate change” to them on school grounds.
At the time, Oklahoma didn’t require the subject be taught, Worth said.
Worth also visited her California high school and spoke with a science teacher. Every year, students work on a climate solutions project. The teacher stated that the project is often a success, but her class did not seem interested in it one time. The teacher learned a history teacher down the hall was showing students online climate conspiracy videos to make sure they “understood both sides,” she told Worth.
“While that, on the very surface, sounds reasonable, what we know is that there aren’t both sides when talking about the science of climate change,” Worth said. “There’s plenty of sides when you’re talking about what to do about climate change, but there’s no actual scientific debate about what’s causing it.”
Worth said that surveys have shown many science educators view the cause of climate changes as a debate. She also found out that popular science textbooks present the causes of climate change in an unresolved manner. One textbook encouraged students debate the causes of global warming.
Worth said she’s talked with textbook authors and industry leaders who cited various factors driving the low level of climate change education in many classrooms. One former editor said Texas — one of the largest textbook buyers in the nation — has a disproportionate influence over what’s published.
Texas was rated an “F” for its climate education standards in the National Center for Science Education review.
“We have to decide that it’s important to teach kids about this, to arm kids with the information about this phenomenon that will shape their lives,” Worth said.
This interview will air on “Colorado Matters” on CPR News on Jan. 4, 2022.