Scaffolding student understanding of climate change

Scaffolding student understanding of climate change

At Stile, we know how important it is that students leave school with the confidence to tackle tomorrow's problems. Climate change, artificial intelligence and vaccination are just some of the key scientific challenges facing this generation. They'll need the skills and knowledge to participate in public discourse about these issues if they are going to shape their futures. As such, preparing students for these critical discussions is constantly front of mind when designing our lessons.

In 2021, of the 1,157 teachers who participated in our annual science education study, 56.52% agreed or strongly agreed that their students are becoming more interested in socio-scientific issues. However, only 49.78% agreed or strongly agreed that their students make connections between what they’re learning in science and critical social problems. We want to help students develop the skills required to tackle these issues while also covering the curriculum (check out our blog on our science news lessons).

In line with Version 9 of the Australian Curriculum, we have made a change to Stile units so that the topics of the carbon cycle and climate change are now taught across Years 9 and 10, rather than in Year 10 alone. This emphasises the importance of students engaging with these important topics earlier and over a more extended period. It is also aligned with the new Australian Curriculum’s aims to strengthen the relationship between science and society and provide more alignment between science, technology, and maths. We are pleased that the V9 updates indicate a desire to move the curriculum toward fostering confident, creative individuals, successful lifelong learners and active, informed members of the community in a world where climate change is a reality. These changes resonate strongly with us as they have been at the core of what we do at Stile from day one.

Our change in sequence provides the opportunity to reinforce important key ideas and give students more context about the issue. Our latest update achieves just that by aligning the two new content descriptions from Version 9 of the Australian Curriculum with two units that will be taught in Years 9 and 10 as outlined in our recommended Scope and Sequence.

AC9S9U03 represent the carbon cycle and examine how key processes including combustion, photosynthesis and respiration rely on interactions between Earth’s spheres (the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere)

AC9S10U04 use models of energy flow between the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere to explain patterns of global climate change

Year 9 Earth Systems

Our planet is a beautiful, dynamic place, with complex interconnected systems in fine balance. To what extent are humans upsetting this balance, and what will the effects be for us and world ecosystems? Our new Year 9 Earth Systems unit begins by introducing Dr Pia Winberg, a marine ecologist and CEO. Pia researches sustainable and innovative ways of using seaweed, from medicine to food Pia’s journey is an interesting one for students to demonstrate the variety of careers in science. In the lesson we detail Pia’s journey into seaweed research.

Students take inspiration from Pia as an example of someone using their passions to positively impact the world around them.

After learning about Pia's interesting use of sustainable resources, students are introduced to the four spheres – the biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and atmosphere. Their learning highlights the important role that carbon plays in ecosystems and how it cycles through these spheres through key processes such as photosynthesis, respiration and combustion. The unit culminates with a science and society lesson asking students to break down the problems with fossil fuel combustion, allowing them to reflect on the positive and negative impact of their actions. Student conclude the lesson by reflecting upon their passions once more and how they could help address the problems of fossil fuel combusion.

Year 10 Climate Change

After learning about the importance of carbon and how it cycles through the four spheres, in this unit, students jump into the data, seeing for themselves how scientists have come to understand the changes occuring in Earth’s climate. They begin by being introduced to the idea of scientific concensus, as well as to a climate scientists, Wilem Huiskamp. They work through a series of lessons, simulations, investigations and even an engineering challenge to build up evidence of climate change.

Students explore Earth’s climate history and even have the opportunity to contribute to a citizen science project tracking carbon dioxide levels through time. They then take their understanding of climate change out of this world, seeing what it would take to terraform a planet using a simulation to model the impacts.

After learning about climate change students look closely at its impact on the world around them. They look at how humans are contributing to global warming, using data from the past to make predictions about the future. With this predictive power in their hands, students plan their own response. They return to the question of scientific consensus and consider where they sit in this important discussion.

This rich unit is sure to have students eagerly coming back for more, enthusiastic to talk about a critical science issue in the world around them. Students end the unit with a lesson on predicting the future and a science and society lesson on responding to climate change.

We hope these units will cycle through your teaching in Year 9 and 10.