Detailed Climate Change Lesson Plans for Non-Science Teachers

Detailed Climate Change Lesson Plans for Non-Science Teachers

Sometimes you feel inspired to create an elaborate lesson from scratch complete with videos, activities and materials. Other times, you need access to a ready-made, well-designed lesson plan, particularly when teaching a lesson on a subject you don’t feel 100% confident about, for example, climate change.

The climate change lesson plans profiled in this blog post will provide non-science teachers with everything they need to deliver an engaging and meaningful lesson on climate change. That’s right - these climate change lessons are meant for non-science classes! The following lessons are designed for subjects like Spanish, art, civics, ELA, drama, and more. Scroll through the list to see what climate change lesson plans are available for the subject you teach! 

The Art of Climate Change

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Art

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Artists have a way of making people look at things with a fresh perspective. This detailed climate change lesson plan from SubjectToClimate focuses on the connection between visual art and climate change. Students will be prompted to consider how art that expresses the impacts of climate change affects audiences differently than hearing factual information about climate change. The lesson looks at ways that visual art may be used to address climate change. Later in the lesson, students will learn about six artists whose work focuses on climate change topics as they complete an activity organizing a fictional climate change art show. 

This creative lesson plan is perfect for art teachers who want to expose students to climate activism through the lens of art. The beginning of the lesson offers a refresher for students (and teachers) on what climate change is and how it is affecting Earth. The Google slideshow provides students with a video about each artist as well as a link to more information about their work. The lesson also includes student handouts that prepare them for the role-play activity, as well as a student reflection activity with a detailed rubric that can be used as an exit ticket.

While the main focus of art classes is generally creating artwork, art teachers know that there are always at least a handful of days each year when access to art supplies or a change in location disrupts the regular schedule. This lesson is great to have on hand for days when you cannot give your students access to paint and clay, but still want to deliver an engaging and impactful lesson.

Changes Ahoof: Could Climate Change Affect Arctic Caribou?

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Biology, Math, Computer Science & Design Thinking

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Technology, STEM, computer programming, design thinking…these terms have become very popular in the world of education! Teachers are being asked to incorporate elements of technology and computer science into their curricula because students will need to understand these skills in order to operate in the modern world. Computer science is also at the core of understanding (and fighting) climate change. In this lesson from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, students will explore how climate change is impacting populations of caribou in the Arctic by running a computer model, analyzing the results, engaging in a discussion, and creating a board game to synthesize what they’ve learned.

Technology and computer teachers will appreciate that this lesson provides background information about how and why caribou populations are being affected by climate change. The lesson plan also includes sample outcomes and a table of results with all possible combinations of the two variables. With these supportive resources, teachers will feel prepared to deliver the lesson even if they aren’t climate science experts. The student handouts provide students with a table to record the data they collect as well as directions for designing their board games.

While this resource teaches about climate change and caribou populations, the real crux of the lesson is understanding variables in a computer model. This is an excellent opportunity to teach students how and why scientists and other professionals use computer models to better understand the world around us. The lesson also offers a fun opportunity for students to practice their math skills as they calculate the percent increase and decrease of the caribou herd.

Geoengineering and Climate Change

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Engineering

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Space mirrors, cloud seeding, ocean iron fertilization - these terms might sound like they come from a sci-fi movie, but they are actually techniques that geoengineers are considering to help people around the world as they grapple with a changing climate. This lesson plan from the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative explains the benefits and risks of using geoengineering to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The lesson leads students through a series of geoengineering articles along with an informative podcast, and provides discussion questions along the way.

The teacher’s guide provides links to resources that will help teachers brush up on the basics of climate change, as well as a helpful glossary that splits geoengineering into two main categories - carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management. Teachers will especially appreciate how the podcast episode explains the moral complexities of geoengineering. 

This detailed climate change lesson plan is easy to implement and requires very little prep. This lesson is sure to generate interesting and multi-faceted class discussions as students grapple with the pros and cons of potential climate change solutions.

Fighting Climate Myths

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Librarians, school media specialists and study skills teachers know that one of the most valuable skills they can teach their students is the ability to find and use reliable information in order to discourage the spread of misinformation. The topic of climate change is often riddled with myths and fallacies, both intentional and unintentional. That’s why this ClimateScience lesson plan is so important! In the lesson, students read about climate misinformation and practice spotting false information in five posts about climate change. Students will correct the posts so that they include only accurate information. 

This lesson plan is great for educators who want to teach their students how to think critically and use credible information to back up their claims. Importantly, all of the tedious teacher prep work has been taken care of!  In the student handout, each climate misinformation post includes links to reliable information students can use to correct the inaccuracies in the post. The lesson also includes a teacher answer key to make it easy to check students’ work.

This lesson is short enough to finish in one class period, but it can also initiate conversations that extend into multiple class periods. The lesson is a great introduction for students who are not yet confident about finding credible information independently. If students are already comfortable evaluating and selecting information, teachers can edit the student handout and remove the links to add an extra challenge.

Scriptwriting Climate Solutions

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: English Language Arts, Social-Emotional Learning, Climate Action

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Climate change, climate change, wherefore art thou, climate change? It can be tough to spotlight climate change in theater and drama classes, but it doesn’t have to be! This innovative climate change lesson plan from ClimateScience gives students the opportunity to write short scripts about people affected by climate change, and act out their plays for the class.

One of the best parts of this lesson plan is that the student handout provides short, interesting climate change stories to guide students as they develop their scripts. Drama and theater teachers don’t have to do any research ahead of time! Giving students the opportunity to write their own play and act it out will make them more invested in the activity and will make the topic of climate change resonate more seriously with the class.

Students are given a story to get them started with their script, but they then have to come up with a solution to a certain climate change-related problem on their own. The resource provides links to sources that students can reference as they consider how the climate change problem can be resolved - both in their play and in the real world. 

Craft a Climate Op-ed

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: English Language Arts

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

English language arts teachers know the value of teaching students how to write clearly and effectively. Students who know how to write well can convey factual information that supports their point of view in a succinct and straightforward manner.  In this rich and well-crafted writing activity from The All We Can Save Project, students will learn about op-ed writing and write about a climate topic that is meaningful to them

The resource provides links to the OpEd Project, two excellent video lectures, and six climate change op-eds, all of which will help students as they learn about op-ed writing. The lesson plan offers detailed instructions for how to brainstorm topics and workshop first drafts.

Students will learn how to write an op-ed, see what makes this writing form unique, and observe the power of op-eds to create change. Unlike some writing forms, the op-ed gives students a chance to write about something they feel passionately about as they hone their writing skills and expand their knowledge of climate change.

Meat or Veggies? The Impact of Diet on Climate

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, English Language Arts, Health

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Health classes often offer straightforward statistics on nutrition and healthy eating. Unfortunately, students are less likely to encounter well-researched, unbiased nutritional information as they navigate their real lives - that’s what makes this media literacy lesson from Project Look Sharp incredibly valuable. In the lesson plan, students will analyze a news report and a documentary clip about the effects of dietary choices on climate change. This activity also includes critical thinking questions and tips for decoding media messaging. 

Many people find themselves bombarded with health advice at every turn. From pop-up ads promising younger skin, to TikTok videos on juice cleanses, it can be hard to know what to trust. The discussion questions in this lesson will help teachers to segue into topics such as scientific consensus, confirmation bias, and media literacy, all of which are important concepts for students to understand in order for them to make educated decisions regarding their health and the health of the planet.

This lesson plan is a perfect way to kick off a unit on nutrition. It sets the stage for students to understand the need for critical thinking as they approach health topics. Teachers who want to delve deeper into this topic can read this United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report on greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production. 

Globalization and the Environment

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Economics, History, English Language Arts, Justice

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

It can be challenging for students to think about global issues that don’t seem to affect their daily lives, and teachers know that students need to learn about ethics and justice to make informed decisions about important issues like climate change. This detailed climate change lesson plan from the OER Project teaches students about the connections between globalization and the environment. The course includes a plethora of resources such as videos, a UN Sustainable Development Goals worksheet, activities, articles, reading guides, a graphic biography, a writing assignment, and an assessment. 

This comprehensive resource provides all of the materials teachers need to deliver a thought-provoking lesson about the ways in which ethics and justice concepts relate to climate change. Students will learn about the causes of environmental change over recent centuries, how changes to the environment affect different groups of people, how resource competition and depletion can cause conflicts, and what the world might be like in 2050. 

This lesson will likely take a number of class periods to complete. Teachers can choose to complete all of the components of the lesson, or they may select the best portion(s) for their students. 

The Public Trust Doctrine - Government's Role in Protecting Natural Resources for the Future

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Social Studies, Civics, Justice, Health

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Civics teachers seek to inform their students about the way government functions, but they also want to instill a sense of agency and civic responsibility.  In this media literacy activity from Project Look Sharp, students will analyze two video clips about youth activists who sued the government in an effort to protect the environment for future generations. Students will examine how the videos use different approaches to convey their messages.

This lesson plan shows students an example of young people engaging responsibly with the government in order to ensure a more just future for all. The climate crisis cannot be solved by individuals; it has to be addressed by governments. This lesson makes it easy for students to see the connection between politics and climate action.

After completing this lesson, students could research other environmental lawsuits to learn about what kinds of protections individuals and groups have secured by suing the government. Teachers also may want to show students how governments can use diplomacy to fight climate change, by referencing this resource on UN climate talks

Carbon Prices and Climate Change

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Social Studies, Economics, Civics, Engineering

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Climate change is an economic issue, but most economic discussions surrounding the climate crisis are focused on the fossil fuel industry and government subsidies. This lesson plan from the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative focuses its discussion on carbon pricing, cap-and-trade, and carbon taxes. The resource includes a podcast, an article, and several challenges using the En-ROADS climate simulator.

This lesson plan makes it easy for students to learn about government-level economic solutions. The simulator will give students a chance to try out a variety of real-world scenarios to see their effects on concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere.

This topic could be used for a debate on the value of carbon pricing, wherein students could argue for and against carbon taxes utilizing both economic and ethical perspectives.

Changing Climate, Changing Cities: Virtual Field Trip from Phoenix to Shenzhen

Grades: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences, Economics, Geography, Health, Climate Action

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Geography teachers want their students to understand the world around them at local and global levels. Right now, the entire world is feeling the impacts of climate change in some way or another. In this collaborative lesson plan from The Nature Conservancy and the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College, students will take a virtual field trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Shenzhen, China. Both cities are being impacted by climate change in very different ways: residents of Phoenix are suffering from extreme heat, while people in Shenzhen are dealing with increased flooding. 

Students will learn about how climate change works, how it is impacting Phoenix and Shenzhen, and the mitigation efforts that both cities are using to combat the effects of climate change. Teachers will appreciate the vocabulary list and thought-provoking discussion questions that accompany the virtual field trip video.

This resource can be used as a stand-alone lesson, or teachers can supplement it with three extension lessons that are linked at the end of the teacher’s guide. 

Sharing Your Climate Story

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Justice, Health, Social-Emotional Learning, Climate Action

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Educators know that social-emotional learning is the cornerstone of a good education. If students cannot process their feelings, develop empathy for others, or set and achieve goals, then all of the material teachers teach in academic classes is virtually worthless. This principle especially applies to learning about climate change. In this lesson plan from ACE, students will view personal narrative videos from two youth activists, and then they will reflect, plan, and write their own personal climate change narrative.

Using the framework of - a challenge, a choice, and an outcome - students will identify something about climate change that has been challenging for them, acknowledge that they can make a choice about how to handle it, and devise a plan to accomplish their goal. 

This lesson is a great way to incorporate climate change into an advisory, life skills, or social skills class, because it gives students a chance to think about how they feel about the climate crisis. Students will also build empathy skills as they watch the personal narrative videos and read their peers’ narratives.

Los Animales y el Clima

Grades: K, 1st, 2nd

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences, World Languages, Spanish

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

When students are learning a new language, activities with which students can personally connect will help to make the learning feel less forced. In this SubjectToClimate lesson plan, students learn Spanish vocabulary words for animals, climate, and energy words. Students will watch a music video and play games to learn about animals and make connections about why the climate is important to those animals. Students will also listen to a story from Chile about children taking action to save energy at home. Finally, students will create postcards in Spanish to that highlight how they will protect Earth’s climate.

This resource includes a well-designed Google slideshow with links to a video and an ebook. Students will remain active and engaged throughout the lesson, and teachers will appreciate that it combines learning Spanish with learning about climate change. As students learn about saving energy, they will feel empowered to make a difference in their homes and communities.

This lesson is perfect for introductory-level Spanish students; they will not need any prior knowledge to complete the activities. The lesson can be scaled up or down depending on the student's ability to play the game independently and write postcards. Tips for differentiation are included in the lesson plan. Be sure to browse SubjectToClimate’s Spanish lesson plans that are designed for a variety of language proficiency levels.

You don’t have to be a science teacher to teach about climate change. In fact, it’s best for students to learn about different aspects of climate change in a variety of academic subjects. These detailed climate change lesson plans are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of interdisciplinary climate change education resources; SubjectToClimate offers all kinds of lesson plans, including teacher-designed lesson plans from SubjectToClimate and other climate change education resources. By teaching your students about climate change, you are taking the first step in motivating the climate activists of the future!

About the Author

Emily has a bachelor’s degree in English and French and a master’s degree in library and information science. She spent seven years teaching information evaluation and research skills as a school librarian in K-8 public schools. As a lifelong resident of Southern Louisiana, Emily has a particular interest in how climate change affects coastal regions. She hopes to connect educators with resources that will help them to teach their students about the disproportionately adverse effects of climate change on historically marginalized communities.