Girls' Education and Climate Change

Girls' Education and Climate Change

Commonly viewed on seemingly divergent paths, girls’ education and climate change are intrinsically linked far more than people realize. Illustrating the connection between girls’ education and climate change is the perfect springboard to celebrate Women's History Month in your classroom. Below you will find compelling resources and lesson plans that are sure to engage and inspire your students on the important topic of women and climate change.

“The gender-climate connection extends beyond negative impacts and beyond powerful solutions. Women are vital voices and agents for change on this planet, and yet we're too often missing or even barred from the proverbial table. We're too often ignored or silenced when we speak. We are too often passed over when plans are laid or investments made. According to one analysis, just 0.2 percent of philanthropic funds go specifically towards women and the environment, merely 110 million dollars globally, the sum spent by one man on a single Basquiat painting last year. These dynamics are not only unjust, they are setting us up for failure. To rapidly, radically reshape society, we need every solution and every solver, every mind, every bit of heart, every set of hands,” Dr. Katherine Wilkinson, How Empowering Women and Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming.

Women and Girls, You Are Part of the Climate Solution

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

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Justice, Climate Action

Resource Type: Video

In this TED video, Omani activist Rumaitha Al Busaidi emphasizes the importance of educating women and girls on climate change, and the necessity of providing access to education and employment opportunities. These actions will help combat climate change and confront the growing issue of carbon pollution. When women are educated and feel empowered, they are better able to advocate for climate solutions and become leaders in the climate movement. Students will be interested to hear Al Busaidi’s perspective on women’s rights in the Middle East. She explains that women are given fewer educational opportunities despite being disproportionately tasked with caring for children and the elderly, putting them more at risk when climate-related crises occur.

After viewing the video, students can work with a partner to create a storyboard (drawings) about their understanding of a section of the video and then present their storyboard to the class. Teachers can ask students to think about the kinds of obstacles that women and girls face in their own communities and how the obstacles impact the community’s response to the climate crisis.

How Empowering Women and Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming

Grades: 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, AP® / College

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Justice, Health, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Type: Video

In this powerful TED Talk video, Dr. Katherine Wilkinson describes her work with Project Drawdown to offer solutions for climate change, including the often overlooked connection between climate change and gender equity. Students will learn how supporting women farmers, educating girls, and providing access to family planning and health care will have a direct and measurable effect on reducing global emissions.

This video is an excellent resource for a social studies, sociology, or geography class. Teachers can ask students to think about how limiting women’s rights takes a toll on society, the economy, and the environment and what it will take to dismantle historically oppressive systems that have kept women from reaching their full potential as citizens, workers, and activists.

Family Planning and Education

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

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Economics, Health

Resource Type: Article

This article, by Project Drawdown, shows how high quality education and thorough family planning processes can generate benefits for society that contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The resource includes an article and a technical summary for additional information. Since some students might be confused about the connection between family planning and climate change, the article will help them realize that access to family planning tools and information not only impacts women, but society as a whole. These opportunities give women and their children the chance to live healthier lives and provide the choice for women to pursue an education before starting a family. When women are healthier and better educated, they are able to have a greater impact on society and lead more productive lives.

Students can read this article independently, in groups, or as a class. Afterward, teachers could facilitate a classroom discussion or have students write a reflection in response to the article. Prior to reading the article, students should be familiar with the following terms: mortality, life expectancy, and empowerment.

Mainstreaming women and girls into climate policies and actions provides great benefits to the planet. Education is key, and this resource will equip students with the desire to share climate education with girls, promote equality, and reduce our collective carbon footprint.

Surprising Solutions for Climate Change - Empower Women and Girls!

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

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

Resource Type: Video

This video features a panel discussion between Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist and conservation strategist, Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Gina McCarthy, former head of the EPA, and moderator John Dankosky. Dankosky gives each of the panelists a chance to discuss one surprising solution to climate change, in which Johnson and McCarthy both talk about the important role of educating girls and empowering women in the climate movement. Students will appreciate how Johnson approaches the topic with clear and direct points and how McCarthy follows Johnson’s statements with unexpected humor. 

Before showing the video to students, teachers could ask students to think about one surprising solution to climate change and discuss it with a partner. After watching the video, students could discuss whether the solution of educating girls and empowering women surprised them and why. Students can discuss whether they believe women and girls in their own community are given the same educational and leadership opportunities as men. Cross-curricular connections can be made to social studies and history when discussing equal rights and cultural norms in other locations or communities. 

Empowering Women: Why Women Are Crucial to Solving Climate Change

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

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Civics, Justice, Climate Action

Resource Type: Video

This five minute animated video by ClimateScience discusses the inequalities women face and how addressing them is a critical step in responding to climate change and reducing emissions. The resource underscores the importance of empowering women as climate leaders to help fight climate change. Bridging the gender gap and supporting girls' education can inspire productivity in all sectors of the economy.

Students may be surprised to learn that women’s rights and girls’ education are connected to climate change and protecting the environment. After viewing the video, students can research the following questions and think about how the topics relate to climate change:

  • What is the average age of marriage for girls in different countries?
  • Why are girls discouraged from or not allowed to go to school after a certain age in some countries or cultures?
  • Why is there a stigma associated with family planning (choosing if, when, and how many children to have)?
  • Why aren't men more involved with domestic duties?
  • Which countries prohibit women from owning land and homes, having a bank account, or starting a business?

How Can Education Be a Solution to Climate Change?

Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Social Studies

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

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Students discuss what education and climate change are and whether they think education can be a solution to climate change.

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Students participate in a class activity to determine if learning new information can impact people’s intentions or behavior.

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Students create a climate change education project to educate members of their family, classroom, school, or community.

This lesson from SubjectToClimate demonstrates how education functions as a solution to climate change. The lesson begins with an inquiry-based section that gives students a chance to reflect on whether or not they believe learning about climate change can actually help solve the climate crisis. After students explore their own feelings about the topic, they engage in a class activity to see how embracing new ideas can inspire action. Finally, students create a project to help educate other people about climate change. 

While this lesson does not directly address girls’ education, teachers can use this lesson in conjunction with the other resources in this blog to show students how education is a foundational solution to climate change. Because women and girls make up roughly half of the world’s population, it is imperative that girls receive the same educational opportunities as boys. Students will be able to see how learning (and not learning) about climate change can impact the everyday choices that people make. Teachers can also expand on this lesson by asking students to think about how climate change education might influence the types of governmental policies that people support.

Unfortunately, girls around the world still lack many of the educational opportunities that are available to boys. Until they are granted equal access to education, it will be difficult to solve climate change. Teaching your students about the value of educating girls and empowering women is an important element of climate change education. These resources are great starters for celebrating and recognizing Women’s History month in the classroom. For more resources on teaching equality, click here.

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. 

About the Author

Amanda is a stay-at-home Mom of two boys and two beagles. She has a diploma in Journalism from Sheridan College and certificates in Animal Care, Shelter Operations, and Wildlife Rehabilitation from Georgian College.