Integrating Climate History into the Global History Curriculum

Kristen Bradle, Jessica Hermann and Dean Bacigalupo

Rationale: This package was created as a resource to assist educators who are teaching the 9th grade New Jersey World History or 9th and 10th grade New York State Global History and Geography curriculum. The resources and guiding questions are
aligned with the New Jersey and New York Learning Standards and the academic skills required on the New York State Global History and Geography Regents examination. The resources highlight the impact of climate change on human
societies as an enduring issue that reemerged at different points in history. These resources contain strong transdisciplinary connections between Social Studies, Science, and STEM/STEAM.

The impact of climate change on human societies is one of the most pressing topics affecting the world today. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is demanding government and corporate action to prevent a climate catastrophe. Goals in designing these materials were to interest students in the past and to engage them as active citizens in the present empowered with historical knowledge.

The question of how to respond to climate change has been contentious as some political leaders in the United States and other countries have challenged the science that explains the threat of climate change to human civilization. Some have dismissed proposals to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases claiming it would injure economies and because “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem.” In reference to the Corona virus, Donald Trump tweeted in all caps, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” Students will have to respond to this assertion as educated citizens, future parents, and community leaders.
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2020/03/24/trump_we_cant_have_the_cure_be_worse_than_the_problem_142750.html
https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1241935285916782593

Enduring Issues: The activities in this packet engage students in exploring a number of Enduring Issues in human history.
https://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/2-enduring-issues-chart.pdf

Human Impact on the Environment: Includes environmental degradation, deforestation, desertification, global warming, destruction of ozone layer, pollution, extinction of species/loss of species, loss of biodiversity, diversion of rivers/water sources, use of alternative energy sources, impact of policies on sustainability, and
spread of disease.

Impact of Environment on Humans: Includes impact of climate, impact of natural disasters, and impact of policies designed to deal with natural disasters.

Impact of Technology: Includes consequences of technology use for people and consequences of technology use for the environment.
Impact of Industrialization: Includes consequences of industrialization.

Impact of Globalization: Includes consequences of interdependence.

Social Studies Frameworks: The following New York State Frameworks are addressed in this series of climate activity sheets:

CLASSICAL CIVILIZATIONS: EXPANSION, ACHIEVEMENT, DECLINE: Classical
civilizations in Eurasia and Mesoamerica employed a variety of methods to expand and maintain control over vast territories. They developed lasting cultural
achievements. Both internal and external forces led to the eventual decline of these empires. Geographic factors encouraged and hindered a state’s/empire’s expansion and interactions. Students will investigate how geographic factors encouraged or hindered expansion and interactions within the Greek, Roman, and Mayan civilizations.

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL GROWTH AND CONFLICT: During the postclassical era, the
growth of transregional empires and the use of trade networks influenced religions and spread disease. These cross-cultural interactions also led to conflict and affected demographic development. Networks of exchange facilitated the spread of disease, which affected social, cultural, economic, and demographic development. Students will map the spread of the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) as it was carried westward from Asia to Africa and Europe. Students will evaluate the effects of the
Black Death on these regions

CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Innovations in agriculture, production, and transportation led to the Industrial Revolution, which originated in Western Europe and spread over time to Japan and other regions.
This led to major population shifts and transformed economic and social systems.

GLOBALIZATION AND A CHANGING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT (1990–PRESENT):
Technological changes have resulted in a more interconnected world, affecting economic and political relations and in some cases leading to conflict and in others to efforts to cooperate. Globalization and population pressures have led to strains on the environment. Technological changes in communication and transportation systems allow for instantaneous interconnections and new networks of exchange between people and places that have lessened the effects of time and distance. Students will investigate the causes and effects of, and responses to, one infectious disease (e.g., malaria, HIV/AIDS). Population pressures, industrialization, and urbanization have increased demands for limited natural resources and food
resources, often straining the environment. Students will examine strains on the environment, such as threats to wildlife and degradation of the physical environment (i.e., desertification, deforestation and pollution) due to population growth, industrialization, and urbanization.

Science and STEM/STEAM Transdisciplinary Connections: The NYS P-12 Science Learning Standards with STEM/STEAM practices and crosscutting concepts guidance document that was referenced to inform connections with middle and high social studies can be found at: http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/program
s/curriculum-instruction/p-12-science-learningstandards.pdf

 Transdisciplinary connections for middle school include 3 inquiries: Earth’s Systems, Weather and Climate, and Human Impacts can be found on pages 48-50.
 Transdisciplinary connections for high school include the inquiry focused on
Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems and can be found on pages 67-68.

Sample Lesson Introduction
Below is a visual Do Now activity that displays the impact and affect climate change has had on the world. This provides students with the evidence and visual understanding that the climate change has resulted drastic changes to our ecosystems. The website below, created by NASA, displays a series of before and after pictures of different climate change “hot spots” around the world. Within these pictures, visible changes, such as rising levels of water can be seen. https://climate.nasa.gov/images-of-change?id=709#709-christmas-tree-harvest-inashe-county-north-carolina

DO NOW: You will examine a series of images on the board, while viewing these images fill out the chart below.

Topic: Old Kingdom Egypt
AIM: What environmental change caused the downfall of Old Kingdom Egypt? These documents explore the effect of desertification in the past.

Map of Old Kingdom, Egypt
Statue of Pharaoh Menkaure (center)
Pyramid of Djoser
Temple of Djoser

Document 1: Desertification of Egypt
“Tomb paintings and inscriptions hint that the environment became more arid toward the end of the Old Kingdom, as some plants disappeared and sand dunes crept close to river settlements. Data drawn from cores in the Nile basin confirm that the climate began to dry around 2200 B.C.”
Source: Did Egypt’s Old Kingdom Die—or Simply Fade Away?

Document 2: “During the last 10,000 years or so, desertification, punctuated by temporary reversals, has driven people out of what was once a well-watered savannah covering vast areas of the present Sahara into smaller areas fed by rivers and near surface groundwaters.”
Source:(PDF) The Desertification of the Egyptian Sahara during the Holocene (the Last 10,000 years) and Its Influence on the Rise of Egyptian Civilization

Document 3: Desertification of the Sahara
“7,300 to 5,500 years ago: Retreating monsoonal rains initiated desiccation in the Egyptian Sahara, prompting humans to move to remaining habitable
niches in Sudanese Sahara. The end of the rains and return of desert conditions throughout the Sahara after 5,500 coincides with population return to the Nile Valley and the beginning of pharaonic society . . . The climate change at [10,500 years
ago] which turned most of the [3.8 million square mile] large Sahara into a savannah-type environment happened within a few hundred years
only, certainly within less than 500 years,” said study team member Stefan Kroepelin of the University of Cologne in Germany.”
Source: https://www.livescience.com/4180-saharadesert-lush-populated.html

Document 4: Effects of Drought and Desertification on the Egyptian Empire
“When a drought brought famine to the land, there was no longer any meaningful central government to respond to it. The Old Kingdom ended with the 6th Dynasty as no strong ruler came to the throne to lead the people. Local officials took care of their own communities and had no resources, nor felt the responsibility, to help the rest of the country. As the 6th Dynasty passed away, Egypt slowly tumbled into the era now classified by scholars as the First Intermediate Period . . . At the end of the 6th Dynasty, there was no longer a central government of note and Egypt entered a period of social unrest and reformation known as The Frist Intermediate Period (2181-2040 BCE) during which Egypt was ruled regionally by local magistrates who made and enforced their own laws. The rise of these local officials and the power of the priesthood were not the only causes of the collapse of the Old Kingdom, however, in that a severe drought toward the end of the 6th Dynasty brought famine which the government could do nothing to alleviate. Scholars have also pointed to the exceptionally long reign of Pepi II of the 6th Dynasty as a contributing factor
because he outlived his successors and left no heir to the throne.” Source: https://www.ancient.eu/Old_Kingdom_of_Egypt/

Questions: The civilizations you examined today made advances in their societies.

  1. How have environmental factors impacted the societies you examined today?
  2. How did the advances civilizations made contribute to environmental consequences?
  3. How have these advances caused a long-lasting impact that is negatively affecting societies today?
  4. Identify a similarity or a difference between the events, ideas, or historical developments presented in documents 1 and 2.
  5. Explain a similarity or a difference in the events, ideas, or historical developments
    presented in these documents. Be sure to use evidence from both documents 1 and 2 in your response.

Topic: Collapse of Akkadian Empire
Aim: What did the Curse of Akkad teach us about the impact of climate on society?
These documents examine the effect of drought caused by a changing local environment.

“For some time, researchers attributed the collapse to political disintegration and invasion by hostile groups. Some paleoclimate records indicate that a catastrophic drought also occurred around this time and suggest that climate factors beyond the control of the empire played a role in its demise.” Source: Drought and the Akkadian Empire

“Instead of rain, the Akkadians and their subjects were baked by dry, hot winds from the north. Precipitation fell by 30 percent, and crops withered in the field; the raw wind picked up the topsoil and blew it south. With their surplus dwindling, the fields barren, and laborers consuming what was left, at some point the Akkadians decided the game was up. Many of the Akkadians moved south, likely as word filtered back that the Euphrates, though diminished, continued to flow, supplying irrigation
water to the fields there. Some refugees became pastoral nomads, moving with their herds in search of fodder.

Those who remained at Tell Leilan left no trace. As the decades went by, sand and dust gradually entombed the acropolis. When the winds and drought finally abated, some three hundred years later, new settlers moved in.” -Eugene Linden, The Winds of Change

Questions:

  1. What was “The Curse of Akkad”?
  2. Use specific quotes from the text to explain what happened as a result of the climate change the Akkadian Empire experienced.
  3. How did Akkadians adapt/respond to the changing climate?

Topic: Mayan Civilization
Aim: Did consequences of climate change play a significant role in the downfall of the Mayan Civilization? Climate change played a critical role on the collapse of the Mayan Civilization.

Document #1: Chart of Evaporation: Scientists have reconstructed climate at the time of the Mayan civilization by studying lake sediment cores from the Yucatan Peninsula (Hodell et al. 1995; Curtis et al. 1996; Hodell et al. 2005). It is possible to
reconstruct changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation (P−E), a common indicator of drought, by measuring oxygen isotope data from the shells of gastropods and ostracods. Lake H2O molecules containing the isotope 18O evaporate less easily than H2O molecules with 16O. Thus, during periods of strong evaporation, the lake water becomes enriched in 18O (values of δ18O are high). These isotopic values are incorporated into the growing shells of gastropods and ostracods that
live in the lake.

Another proxy for P−E is the percent of sulfur in the lake sediments. Evaporation concentrates sulfur in the lake water. If the sulfur concentration becomes high enough, salts such as gypsum (CaSO4) will start to precipitate from the lake water
and add sulfur to the lake sediments. The variations of sulfur percentage match the variations in oxygen isotopes closely. Corroborating one paleoclimate proxy with another is an important check on proxy records and gives us more confidence in them.

Scientists reconstructed changes in the balance between precipitation and evaporation using the percent of sulfur in sediments and the oxygen isotopes of shells of gastropods and ostracods from Lake Chichancanab on the Yucatan Peninsula (Hodell et al. 1995)

Document 2: Effects of Deforestation on Mayan Civilization: “Results from simulations with a regional climate model demonstrate that deforestation by the Maya also likely induced warmer, drier, drought‐like conditions. It is therefore hypothesized that the drought conditions devastating the Maya resulted from a combination of natural variability and human activities. Neither the natural drought or the human‐induced effects alone were sufficient to cause the collapse, but the
combination created a situation the Maya could not recover from. These results may have sobering implications for the present and future state of climate and water resources in Mesoamerica as ongoing massive deforestation is again occurring.”
Source: Oglesby, R. J., T. L. Sever, W. Saturno, D. J. Erickson III, and J. Srikishen (2010). “Collapse of the Maya: Could deforestation have contributed?” J. Geophys. Res., 115, D12106, doi:10.1029/2009JD011942.

“Deforestation led to lower rainfall and higher temperatures; both factors would have been detrimental to Mayan life. The reduction in rainfall means it would have been more difficult for the Maya to store enough water to survive the dry season, while the warmer conditions put more stress on evaporation, vegetation, livestock, and people. These effects occurred during both the wet and dry seasons but were much larger during the wet season, when they were also arguably more
important. This is because the Maya societal structure depended on storage of water during the wet season, which in turn provided for them during the dry season.” Source: AGU Journal

Document 3: Effects of Drought on Mayan Civilization: “Recent data indicate that a major drought at this time may have been a key factor in the collapse. Research along the Holmul River, which runs through several bajos and connects 10 major Maya cities, indicates that between A.D. 750 and 850 the river either dried up or became swampy, perhaps as a result of a long period of drought” [Sever and Irwin, 2003; T. P. Culbert, personal communication, 2002].

Document 4: Reduction of Rainfall and Wetland Formation: Researchers from Arizona State University analyzed archaeological data from across the Yucatan to reach a better understanding of the environmental conditions when the area was
abandoned. Around this time, they found, severe reductions in rainfall were coupled with a rapid rate of deforestation, as the Mayans burned and chopped down more and more forest to clear land for agriculture. Interestingly, they also required massive amounts of wood to fuel the fires that cooked the lime plaster for their elaborate constructions—experts estimate it would have taken 20 trees to produce a single square meter of cityscape. Smithsonian magazine Accelerator mass spectrometry dates chart and conceptual model of wetland formation. (Credit: T. Beach et al., University of Texas at Austin)

Document 5: Lake Bottom Sediment Core from Yucatan Peninsula: Bands located on sediment core help indicate periods of drought and periods of rainfall based on the coloring of the bands. Below, is a piece of lake bottom sediment core from the Yucatan Peninsula, displaying periods of drought during the time of the Mayan
collapse.

Picture source: The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations by Eugene Linden.

Questions for Mayan Document Series:

  1. How did deforestation and drought play a critical role in the decline and eventual collapse of the Mayan Civilization?
  2. How does science aid historians in understanding important changes in climate that have affected civilizations?
  3. Based on the research presented in this document series, did consequences of climate change play a significant role in the downfall of the Mayan Civilization?

Topic: Roman Empire (27 BC-476 AD)
Aim: How did shifts in climate lead to the decline of the Roman Empire?
During the establishment and peak of the Roman empire Europe was enduring a period of climate stability. When Rome began experiencing colder, unstable weather, deadly epidemics led to a decline in civilization.

Document 1: Climate Change Background
“Climate change did not begin with the exhaust fumes of industrialization, but has been a permanent feature of human existence. Orbital mechanics (small variations in the tilt, spin and eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit) and solar cycles alter the amount
and distribution of energy received from the Sun. And volcanic eruptions spew reflective sulphates into the atmosphere, sometimes with long-reaching effects. Modern, anthropogenic climate change is so perilous because it is happening quickly and in conjunction with so many other irreversible changes in the Earth’s biosphere. But climate change per seis nothing new.” Source: Smithsonian

Document 2: How Favorable Climate Led To The Rise of the Roman Empire
“It turns out that climate had a major role in the rise and fall of Roman civilization. The empire-builders benefitted from impeccable timing: the characteristic warm, wet and stable weather was conducive to economic productivity in an agrarian
society. The benefits of economic growth supported the political and social bargains by which the Roman empire controlled its vast territory. The favorable climate, in ways subtle and profound, was baked into the empire’s innermost structure.”
Source: Smithsonian

Document 3: Climate and The Fall of The Roman Empire
“The end of this lucky climate regime did not immediately, or in any simple deterministic sense, spell the doom of Rome. Rather, a less favorable climate undermined its power just when the empire was imperiled by more dangerous enemies— Germans, Persians—from without. Climate instability peaked in the sixth century, during the reign of Justinian. Work by dendro-chronologists and ice-core experts points to an enormous spasm of volcanic activity in the 530s and 540s CE, unlike anything else in the past few thousand years. This violent sequence of eruptions triggered what is now called the ‘Late Antique Little Ice Age,’ when much colder temperatures endured for at least 150 years. This phase of climate deterioration had decisive effects in Rome’s unravelling. It was also intimately
linked to a catastrophe of even greater moment: the outbreak of the first pandemic of bubonic plague.” Source: Smithsonian

Document 4: Levels of Precipitation in the Roman Empire
The Fall of the Roman Empire was affected by a period of cooling, known as the Little Ice Age. This period of cooling greatly affected the way people lived. Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Source: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/)

Document 5 and 6: Favorable Flooding of the Nile Creating Stable Conditions
Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“Finally, unnoticed until not, Egypt, the Roman Empire’s breadbasket, spears to have enjoyed exceptionally favorable conditions for cereal production during this period . Nile river levels reflect precipitation over Ethiopia and East and Central Africa. Precious study has clarified the history of Nile floods down to 299 A.D., but that abundant evidence has never been exploited for climate history or economic performance. Before Rome annexed Egypt, all seven of nine securely recorded Nile floods in the earlier years of the first century B.C. were below average. For the next 329 years, from the annexation in 30 B.C. to 299 S.D., reliable documents allow an estimate of the annual flood in 199 different years, after which the available data become more scarce until 642 A.D. They show a subtle but significant pattern: The most favorable floods occurred when contrasted with those of the following period.”

Note: Dead Sea: Fluctuating sea levels reflect overall precipitation in the Levant. Although the chronology is fluid, recent work clearly confirms earlier findings of an early and late period of humid conditions, separated and followed by dry conditions
Note: Lake Van: Oxygen isotopes within our period indicate most humid conditions c. the first centuries B.C. and A.D. and c. the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., and dry conditions c. the third and seventh centuries.

Document 7: Favorable Conditions During the Roman Empire
Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, The Roman Optimum: Stability from C. 100 B.C. to 200 A.D.
Exceptional climate stability characterizes the centuries of the Roman Empire’s rise; certain regions enjoyed unusually favorable conditions. In the western Roman Empire, the first century B.C. through the first and possibly second century A.D. were warmer than later centuries. Archaeological evidence from Britain, ice-core date from Greenland, and dendrodata about summer temperature.

Document 8: The Fall of the Roman Empire
Source: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
We synthesize the results for the entire sweep of Roman imperial history in four multi-century phases, distinguishing between the western (approximately -9.34 to 22 degrees) and the eastern (22 degrees to 38.96 degrees) regions of the Empire. The written, archeological, and natural-scientific proxy evidence independently but consistently indicates that climate conditions changed during the period of the Roman Empire’s maximum expansion and final crisis. Rates of change shifted dramatically over time, from apparent near stasis under the early Empire to rapid fluctuations later in the Empire’s history.
Changes affected different parts of the Empire in different ways and at different times. Even though the different data sets are not in perfect agreement about absolute dating, they impressively converge about the sequence of events. In each case, the discussion moves from west to east.

Questions

  1. Why might an unprecedented period of chilling have major consequences on the Roman Empire?
  2. Why is it important river levels and flooding remain on a set schedule and stay predictable? If they do not, what effects might it have on society?
  3. Was the Roman Empire able to adapt to climate change?

Topic: Collapse of the Norse North Atlantic Network
Aim: How did climate change cause the Inuit civilization to prosper and the downfall of the Norse?
Climate change can cause one civilization to flourish while it causes another to collapse. Civilizations that are able adapt to climate change may prevail.

Medieval Warming Period 900-1250 A.D. created wealth and prosperity in Europe. During this time the peak expansion of Viking Influence occurred. This warming period caused the growing season to lengthen as population and trade expanded
throughout Europe. The Norse first ventured to Iceland starting in 874 when trees were plentiful. From Iceland they traveled to Greenland which had “better land for growing barley than Iceland, as well as birch and willow trees, and meadows to support livestock.” In an attempt to expand their influence some “Norse traders ventured to North America during the 350-year span of the Western Settlement
in Greenland” but “Norse ventures in the New World petered out” and the Norse were forced to return to Greenland and Iceland. The weather turning colder due to the Little Ice Age “eliminated the possibility that the Norse would colonize North
America.”

“Climate changes, and when it does, it favors some and penalizes others. This is what happened during the Viking Age. Starting between 1343 and 1345, Greenland suffered through ten cold years, culminating in the worst winter in five hundred
years in 1355. This led to the collapse of the western colony.” The Norse civilization slowly collapsed and starved as “short cold summers gave the Norse no opportunity to rebuild their flocks and grain supplies. For food, they relied on hunting and
gathering as well as farming…and relied on meat and milk to get them through the winter.”

“The Inuit flourished during this same period. The Norse could have survived the bad weather too if they had learned from the Inuit, who love it when the weather turns frigid because it gives them an ice platform from which to hunt ringed seals with harpoons when the mammals surface at breathing holes in the sea ice. Christian Norse likely regarded the shamanistic Inuit as unenlightened and beneath
them. The Norse could have adapted Inuit hunting methods and survived the Little Ice Age. Greenland colonies prospered during the warm years and became uninhabitable by agrarian people during the cold years. The Little Ice Age proved absolutely fatal to the Greenland colonies.” – Linden, The Winds of Change

Questions

  1. Would the world be different today if the Medieval Warm Period had continued and
    Greenland settlers had endured? Explain your answer.
  2. Why did the Inuit civilization survive the Little Ice Age while it caused the collapse of the Norse civilization?

Topic: The Fall of the Ancient Khmer Empire 802 CE-1431CE
Aim: What does Ancient Khmer infrastructure reveal about their collapse?
Through innovation the Khmer Empire tried to decrease the effects of climate instability but ultimately climate change prevailed and led to the fall of the Empire.

“The cause of the Angkor empire’s demise in the early 15th century long remained a mystery. But researchers have now shown that intense monsoon rains that followed a prolonged drought in the region caused widespread damage to the city’s infrastructure, leading to its collapse. From the beginning, water was central to the development of Angkor, which is often described as a “hydraulic city.” Channels and reservoirs were constructed to collect and store water coming from the hills, both for flood control and for distribution for agriculture. A system of overflows and bypasses carried surplus water to the Tonle Sap Lake to the
south of the city.

In the mid to late 1300s, Angkor began suffering from a persistent drought. This was followed by several years of unusually strong monsoon rains, producing extensive flooding with which the city’s infrastructure seemed to have been unable to cope.
The flooding caused serious erosion in the system, with links in it being systematically severed. To the south of the city, canals were choked with material
eroded from the center of Angkor.

The bridge at Angkor Thom was built from reused stone blocks from temples, with many of them carved in intricate ways. That they would take apart a temple and use it for something as mundane as a bridge suggests there is something seriously going
wrong. It has long been thought that the damage to the water management system put an end to a long period of decline at Angkor. As the flooding destroyed the infrastructure, the city of Angkor collapsed. In 1431, it was taken by the Siamese
army.

The medieval Khmer were confronted with a period of climatic instability that they had no experience of, and which fully changed the rules of the game that they had been playing for hundreds of years. A similar scale of challenge is now confronting
contemporary communities, as the climate begins to change.”
Show video for architecture and river:
https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/00000144-0a43-d3cb-a96c-7b4f433d0000
Source: Angkor Wat’s Collapse From Climate Change Has Lessons for Today
(https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/04/angkor-wat-civilization-collapsed-floods-droughtclimate-change/)

Questions

  1. How did infrastructure innovations created by the Angkor civilization help their civilization flourish and then aid in the collapse?
  2. What advantages do societies have today for surviving climate change that the Ancient Khmer Empire did not?

Document 1: The Rise of Genghis Khan and The Mongols. “On a research trip to Mongolia in 2010, Pederson, Hessl and their colleagues discovered a stand of stunted Siberian pine trees in the Khangai Mountains. The trees—some of which were still alive—were ancient, some more than 1,100 years old. Old trees provide a living history book of the climate. During warm, wet years, the trees grow more, and the rings inside the trunk that mark those years are wider. The opposite happens during dry years, when the rings would be narrow. Counting back to the late 1100s, just before the rise of Genghis Khan, the tree-ring data indicated that the Mongol steppes had been in the grip of an intense drought, one that could have helped drive the years of division among the Mongol tribes as they competed for scarce resources. But the tree-rings showed that the years between 1211 and 1225—a period of time that coincided with the meteoric rise of Genghis Khan, who died in 1227—were marked by unusually heavy rainfall and mild temperatures.” Source: Time Magazine

Document 2: “The transition from extreme drought to extreme moisture right then strongly suggests that climate played a role in human events. It wasn’t the only thing, but it must have created the ideal conditions for a charismatic leader to emerge out of the chaos, develop an army and concentrate power. Where it’s arid, unusual moisture creates unusual plant productivity, and that translates into horsepower. Genghis was literally able to ride that wave.” Source: PNAS Study, Amy Hessl

Document 3: Tree Ring Moisture: Tree ring moisture indicated the Mongols suffered severe drought and began dealing with a period of moisture when Genghis Khan was able to rise to power. Tree-ring drought reconstruction site (green cross) and inferred temperature site (white cross) are 50 km apart. Map of the Mongol Empire near its zenith (aqua) in 1260 CE. The ancient capital city of Karakorum (black triangle) and current capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar (black star). Source: PNAS

Questions

  1. How could change in climate lead to the emergence of a new leader?
  2. Why would climate altering from dry to damp help foster conditions where a civilization is able to thrive?
  3. Do we see a similar trend of unfavorable climate conditions, followed by favorable climate conditions leading to the emergence of powerful leaders elsewhere in history?

Topic: Bubonic Plague
Aim: Was the Bubonic Plague pandemic driven by climate change?
The Bubonic Plague (1346-1353) was a result of weather effects due to climate change during the Little Ice Age (1303-1860)

Document 1: The Spread of the Black Plague
“From 1347 to 1353, a second plague pandemic called the Black Death swept across Europe, killing some 25 million people there and another 25 million in Asia and Africa. But plague is not naturally found in Europe. The disease is endemic to Asia, where the bacterium is found among small animals (rodents) and their fleas. It’s possible the disease was reintroduced to Europe multiple times following Asian climate events. The world was suffering through a second plague pandemic as
effects of quick succession of floods and droughts. The rodents likely played a role in moving the disease between harbors. Instances of quarantining ships—a practice developed in the late 14th century in response to the Black Death—could have saved
at least a few port towns during the centuries of the second pandemic.” Source: Plague Pandemic May Have Been Driven by Climate, Not Rats

Document 2: The climate causes of the Black Plague
“Rapid shifts between warm and cool throw ecosystems out of balance, unleashing pests and microbes, and ruining crops. During the Little Ice Age global temperatures dropped between 0.5 and 1 degree centigrade. Flooding in China’s river valleys “one of the greatest weather-related disasters ever known,” since the floods led to the deaths of roughly 7 million people…made Asia a petri dish for the next iteration of the plague in 1332. The years following saw severe drought, setting up the climate seesaw that would cause the rapid increase and collapse of various rodent populations, both of which could have brought the plague into contact with humans.
Weather played a role in releasing the Black Death from China and Mongolia, where it had been bottled up in rodent populations. Before it made its way down the Silk Road to Crimea, the plague killed an estimated 35 million people in China.
Then, in about 1346, it began to move west. The plague and other epidemics made several return visits over the next few centuries. All these traumas were direct and indirect effects of the Little Ice Age.” Source: Linden, The Winds of Change

Questions

  1. Would the world be different today if the Medieval Warm Period had continued and
    Greenland settlers had endured? Explain your answer.
  2. Why did the Inuit civilization survive the Little Ice Age while it caused the collapse of the Norse civilization?

Topic: Medieval Europe
AIM: How did building Cathedrals during the Middle Ages impact the environment?
Deforestation places strains on the environment with major consequences.


Document 1: The Notre Dame Cathedral: The Notre Dame Cathedral was built in Paris, France in 1163. On April 15, 2019 a structure fire broke out under the roof in the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Document 2: “The trees that made up the roof’s wooden structure were cut down around 1160, and some sources estimate that the beams accounted for 13,000 trees, or about 21 hectares of medieval forest, many of which had been growing since the
800s or 900s. “You have a stage in France where deforestation was a problem; these buildings consumed huge amounts of wood.” That’s according to Columbia University art historian Stephen Murray, who spoke with Ars Technica. All that
wood, he said, supported an outer roof of lead— until the wood burned and the roof collapsed.” Source: Notre Dame Cathedral will never be the same, but it can be rebuilt

Document 3: “The wooden roof, which burned in the fire, was built with beams over 850 years old, comes from secular forests. Most of the large 12thcentury trees were cut for construction, making them a deciding factor in the current state of the trees on French territory. Another major problem is the large-scale deforestation that was taking place at that time. Many trees have grown since the 7th century, which means that much of the wood destroyed in Dombrand was destroyed 1,300 years ago. For the construction of churches castles and ships needed large quantities of wood, leaving a large part of the wood in French forests as felled.”Source: SUMBER projections for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral. What the
architects say about the lack of a crucial element

Questions

  1. Is it possible to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral roof today replicating its original structure using the same original materials? Explain your answer.
  2. What environmental impact did the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral have on the environment at the time of its original construction? How did it impact the environment?

Topic: Industrial Revolution
AIM: How did the advancements made during the Industrial Revolution impact the environment?
The Industrial Revolution started mid-18th century in England. and has had a lasting impact on climate. These documents focus on how new industries produced new problems with pollution, problems that continue today.

Document 1:

Document 2: Political Cartoons

Document 3:
“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river… fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollution of a great (and dirty) city.” – Charles Dickens, BLEAK HOUSE. The towns surrounding Manchester . . . re badly and irregularly built with foul courts, lanes, and back alleys, reeking of coal smoke, and especially dingy from the originally bright red brick, turned black with time. These east and north-east sides of Manchester are the only ones on which the bourgeoisie has not built, because ten or eleven months of the year the west and south-west wind
drives the smoke of all the factories hither, and that the working-people alone may breathe . . . Along both sides of the stream, which is coal-black, stagnant and foul, stretches a broad belt of factories and working-men’s dwellings . . . The cottages are
old, dirty, and of the smallest sort, the streets uneven, fallen into ruts and in part without drains or pavement; masses of refuse, offal and sickening filth lie among standing pools in all directions; the atmosphere is poisoned by the effluvia from these, and laden and darkened by the smoke of a dozen tall factory chimneys. – Condition of the Working Class in England, by Engels, 1845.

Document 4: “And what cities! … smoke hung over them and filth impregnated them, the elementary public services – water supply, sanitation, street-cleaning, open spaces, and so on – could not keep pace with the mass migration of men into the cities, thus producing, especially after 1830, epidemics of cholera, typhoid and an appalling constant toll of the two great groups of nineteenth century urban killers – air pollution and water pollution or respiratory and intestinal disease.” –
Hobsbawm, 1969, p. 86.

Document 5: Audio clip explaining how carbobased pollution causes glacial melting.
https://listenwise.com/teach/lessons/277-pollutionfrom-industrial-revolution-thought-to-melt-glaciers

Questions

  1. What environmental effect did the Industrial Revolution have on England’s environment? Note one environmental effect from political cartoons
    and one from the excerpts.
  2. What aspect of the Industrial Revolution caused these environmental effects? Explain your answer.
  3. Explain the historical circumstances that caused the environmental effects?
  4. Identify and explain a cause and effect relationship associated with the ideas or events in documents 1 and 2. Be sure to use evidence from both documents 1 and 2 in your response.

Topic: Climate Change and Disease
Aim: How did the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia lead to a global pandemic?
Natural catastrophic events like a volcanic eruption can had long term widespread consequences.

Tambora is located in Indonesia. It erupted on April 9, 1815 causing lasting global effects; including a year without a summer in 1816.

Environmental Effects
“A powerful volcanic eruption in 1815 set off a chain of events, from extreme weather and crop failures to a global cholera pandemic. Mount Tambora erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa. It belched millions of tonnes of rock, ash
and gas in April 1815, set off a tsunami, and killed about 100,000 people in the immediate aftermath. Then, as sulphur dioxide rose with the ash into the
stratosphere and circled the globe, the world was plunged into a volcanic winter that lasted three years. Crops failed in China, Europe and, eventually, America. In New York, it snowed in June. In the Alps, glaciers fingered out at unprecedented speed. Weird as it may seem, the Tambora explosion, unnoticed outside Java, not only unleashed devastating weather, destroying crops and communities around the globe. It also transformed cholera from a local nuisance in Bengal into one of the world’s most virulent and feared diseases.” Source: Relevant lessons from climate
change and a global pandemic in the 19th century

“The onset of volcanic winters jeopardized global food security and had climate effects that lasted years. It created a global pandemic that lasted years
and hurt the global economy.”

Rise of a New Disease
“In 1817, a global cholera pandemic suddenly erupted, a “phantom agent of death that was brutal, unknowable, and potentially limitless in its reach.” From India, a newly virulent strain of cholera spread to Myanmar and Thailand in 1819 and 1820
and Iran in 1822 before reaching France in 1830 and eventually the United States in 1832.”
Source: Relevant lessons from climate change and a global pandemic in the 19th century

“From India, a newly virulent strain of cholera spread to Myanmar and Thailand in 1819 and 1820 and Iran in 1822 before reaching France in 1830
and eventually the United States in 1832.”
Source: Relevant lessons from climate change and a global pandemic in the 19th century


“Drought brought on by the eruption devastated crop yields across the Indian subcontinent, but more disastrously gave rise to a new and deadly strain of
cholera. Cholera had always been endemic to Bengal, but the bizarre weather of 1816–17 triggered by Tambora’s eruption—first drought, then late, unseasonal flooding—altered the microbial ecology of the Bay of Bengal. The cholera bacterium, which has an unusually adaptive genetic structure highly sensitive to changes in its
aquatic environment, mutated into a new strain. This was met with no resistance among the local population, and it spread across Asia and eventually the globe. By the century’s end, the death toll from Bengal cholera stood in the tens of millions.”
Source: Tambora eruption caused the year without a summer: Cholera, opium, famine, and Arctic exploration.

Questions

  1. What climate reactions occurred as a result of the eruption of Mount Tambora?
  2. How did the eruption of Mount Tambora cause the cholera pandemic?
  3. How did the eruption of Mount Tambora affect the world economy

Topic: Water Resources
Aim: What will the United States do when the water in the Great Plains is gone?
Changing climate is affecting a vast area of the United States. The droughts and shorter growing season taking place in the Great Plains will have dire effects on the population. The main source of water in this area, the Ogallala Aquifer, is being
drained and dried. The unstable climate will affect water resources and agriculture in the United States.

“The Plains are made up of a broad range of ecosystems, including forests, rangelands, marshes, and desert. Climate change related impacts, including heat waves and extreme weather events, have disproportionate effects on vulnerable groups, including young, elderly, ill, and low income populations. In the Great Plains, remotely located populations, face greater challenges in responding to climate change because of a lack of development, public health resources, and access to other public services and communication systems. Language barriers for indigenous groups can also impact the ability to respond to climate extremes.”
Source: Climate Impacts in the Great Plains | US

“This is the breadbasket of America—the region that supplies at least one fifth of the total annual U.S. agricultural harvest. If the aquifer goes dry, more than $20 billion worth of food and fiber will vanish from the world’s markets. And scientists say
it will take natural processes 6,000 years to refill the reservoir.” Source: The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital U.S. Water Source

Impacts on Water Resources
“As patterns of temperature and precipitation change, the Great Plains region is expected to face increased competition for water supplies for use by homes, business, agriculture, and energy production. Water in this region comes largely from the High Plains Aquifer system, made up largely of the Ogallala aquifer. The High Plains Aquifer system is one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world and underlies approximately 111 million acres in parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Nearly 30% of all irrigated lands in the United States reside above this aquifer, making it
one of the primary agricultural regions in the nation.
The High Plains Aquifer also provides drinking water for more than 80% of the residents living over the aquifer and is key to the region’s energy production. Long-term declines in the water level within the High Plains Aquifer have resulted from
greater water discharge than recharge. Discharge (or withdrawal) occurs largely by irrigation, which has resulted in an average water level decline of 14.2 feet since irrigation began around 1950. This translates to an 80 trillion gallon reduction in water storage within the aquifer. Recharge (or replenishing) comes primarily from precipitation. In the northern portion of the Great Plains, rain can recharge the aquifer quickly. However, with climate change, precipitation in the winter and spring is projected to increasingly fall in the form of very heavy precipitation events, which can increase flooding and runoff that reduce water quality and cause soil erosion. In the southern portion of the region, little recharge occurs, so declines in the aquifer’s water level are much greater (see figure of High Plains Aquifer). Climate change will worsen this situation by causing drier conditions and
increasing the need for irrigation.”

Topic: Natural Disasters
Aim: Can climate change trigger volcanic eruptions?
Researchers believe record rainfall attributed to climate change triggered the 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions in Hawaii.

Do Now: Read about the relationship between climate change and rainfall and answer question:
How does “human-caused climate change” lead to more intense rainfall?
“Human-caused climate change intensifies the heaviest downpours. More than 70% of the planet’s surface is water, and as the world warms, more water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and soils. Every 1°F rise also allows the atmosphere to hold 4% more water vapor. So when weather patterns lead to heavy rain, there is even more
moisture available for stronger downpours, increasing the risk and severity of flooding.
“– Climate Central,
https://www.climatecentral.org/news/report-pouring-it-on-climate-change-intensifies-heavy-rain-events

Map of Hawaiian Islands
Location of Kīlauea volcano

Instructions: Examine Document A, the abstract from a scientific report in the journal Nature, and Document B, an excerpt from a report on the study
published in the British newspaper The Guardian. An important role of the press is to translate technical language into conventional speech. After reading the two documents answer the guiding questions and discuss with our team whether The
Guardian
report adequately explained the scientific study.

Questions

  1. Where is the Kīlauea volcano and when did it erupt?
  2. According to the scientific report, what triggered the eruption?
  3. The scientific report cites “anthropogenic climate change” as a cause of the eruption. Based on context clues, what is “anthropogenic climate change”?
  4. What other evidence is there of volcanic eruptions triggered by intense rainfall?
  5. The headline in The Guardian article is “Record rain triggered 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions, says study.” In your opinion, are the headline and article an accurate summary of the scientific report?

Document A: Extreme rainfall triggered the 2018 rift eruption at Kīlauea Volcano
Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586- 020-2172-5
The May 2018 rift intrusion and eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i, represented one of its most extraordinary eruptive sequences in at least 200 years, yet the trigger mechanism remains elusive. The event was preceded by several months of
anomalously high precipitation. It has been proposed that rainfall can modulate shallow volcanic activity, but it remains unknown whether it can have impacts at the greater depths associated with magma transport. Here we show that immediately before and during the eruption, infiltration of rainfall into Kīlauea Volcano’s subsurface increased pore pressure at depths of 1 to 3 kilometres by 0.1 to 1 kilopascals, to its highest pressure in almost 50 years. We propose that weakening and mechanical failure of the edifice was driven by changes in pore pressure within the rift zone, prompting opportunistic dyke intrusion and ultimately facilitating the eruption. A precipitation-induced eruption trigger is consistent with the lack of precursory summit inflation, showing that this intrusion—unlike others—was not
caused by the forceful intrusion of new magma into the rift zone. Moreover, statistical analysis of historic eruption occurrence suggests that rainfall patterns contribute substantially to the timing and frequency of Kīlauea’s eruptions and intrusions.
Thus, volcanic activity can be modulated by extreme rainfall triggering edifice rock failure — a factor that should be considered when assessing volcanic hazards. Notably, the increasingly extreme weather patterns associated with ongoing anthropogenic climate change could increase the potential for rainfall-triggered volcanic phenomena worldwide.

Document B: Record rain triggered 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruptions, says study
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/22/record-rain-triggered-2018-kilauea-volcanoeruptions-hawaii-study
The spectacular eruptions of the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii in 2018 were triggered by extreme rainfall in the preceding months, research suggests. Scientists say the finding raises the possibility that climate breakdown, which is causing more extreme
weather, could lead to an increase in eruptions around the world. The 2018 Kīlauea eruptions were one of the most extraordinary sequences in at least 200 years, according to the scientists, with rifts opening, summit explosions and collapses, and a magnitude 6.9 earthquake. But the trigger was not known. However, several months of unusually high rainfall preceded the eruption, with one 24-hour
period setting a record for the entire US. This flood of water would have percolated down into fissures and pores in the rocks of the volcano, as far as 1.8 miles (2.9km) below the surface. The scientists calculated this pushed up the pore pressure inside
the rocks to the highest level in almost 50 years, weakening them and allowing magma to push up from below. The scientists also looked at eruptions of Kīlauea since 1790 and found that these historical events were twice as likely to happen in
the rainy season. Such a link has long been thought possible – JD Dana, one of the first geologists to visit Hawaii in the late 1800s, suggested the idea.
They also ruled out magma pressure from below triggering the eruption, because the surface had barely deformed, and the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, which can trigger eruptions. “All the circumstantial evidence points in the same direction,” said Jamie Farquharson, at the University of Miami, whose research is published in
the journal Nature. Rain has been linked to shallow eruptions in the past, such as at Mount St Helens in 1980, but this is the first time an impact at depth has been found.

Topic: Impact of Current Climate Change
Aim: How does climate change threaten the future of Kenya?
Climate change severely impacts Kenya. Kenya is dealing with erratic rainfall, extreme drought, and an increase in temperatures. Kenya is in extreme need of global action to help combat the challenges climate change brings to their everyday life.

Document 1: Projections of Kenya’s Future
Source: United States Agency of International Development

Document 2: Kenya Annual Average Precipitation Low
Source: United States Agency of International Development
(https://www.climatelinks.org/sites/default/files/asset/document/2018_USAID-ATLAS-Project_Climate-RiskProfile-Kenya.pdf)

Document 3: Historic Climate vs. Future Climate Projections (U.S. Agency of International Development)

Document 4: Effect of all Aspects of Life (U.S. Agency of International Development

Document 5: Primary Source Information: The Children of Kenya (Source: UNICEF)
“Our home was destroyed by the floods and we have nothing left. My parents cannot even afford to pay my older siblings’ school fees since we have no cows left to sell.”-Nixon Bwire, age 13, Tana River.

“Climate change is affecting us and, in the future if we are not involved, we will live in a desert. The rivers have dried up and sand mining has increased, this has caused many children to drop out of school to work loading vehicles for mines”-Samuel, age 14, Machakos

Idhila Mohammed carries her child on her back as she searches for food and water for her surviving cattle. “We had 180 cattle last year, but since the drought only 40 are left,” she said.
“In the few years that I’ve been here, the climate has really changed. Temperatures have gone up. The rainfall has dropped. As time goes by, things are getting worse and worse … It rains once in three months, that’s not normal. This has led to shortage of food and water, which has led to the death of animals. People lose their livestock and other people die due to starvation and hunger.” Lourine Oyodah, age 15, Lodwar

Document 6: Projection for Mombasa, an area in Kenya hit hard by climate change
Source: UNICEF https://www.unccd.int/sites/default/files/relevant-links/2017-
06/climatechangekenya2010web.pdf

Document 7: Documented Changes from 1967- 2012 (Source: Human Rights Watch)
Between 1967 and 2012, maximum and minimum average temperatures in Turkana County, in Kenya’s northwest corner near the border with Ethiopia, rose between 2 and 3°C (3.6 to 5.4°F), according to data from the meteorological station in Turkana’s capital. Rainfall patterns seem to have changed, with the long rainy season becoming
shorter and drier and the short rainy season becoming longer and wetter. Insecurity and conflict in the region are expected to get worse as grazing lands decrease.

At the same time, hydroelectric projects and irrigated sugar plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo River Valley threaten to vastly reduce the water levels in Lake Turkana, the world largest desert lake, and the source of livelihood for 300,000 Turkana residents. Some experts forecast that the lake may recede into two small pools, devastating fish stocks.

Document 8: Conditions in Kenya (Source: Kenya Climate Innovation)
For instance, the flooding in Naivasha, Kenya after the Karati River burst its banks caused 172 fatalities, displaced 283,290 people and left 84 people with severe injuries. Government data also shows that in the Tana River alone, 150,000 people
have been displaced and 16 killed due to flooding.
Furthermore, flooding is related to food scarcity fueled by decreased yields. The drought has also lead to decreased power and water supply to cities
in Kenya, including Nairobi.
One of the areas that has negatively been impacted by climate change is agriculture, which supports 75% of Kenya’s population and contributes to 21% of the country’s GDP. Given its high reliance on rainfall, it is adversely impacted by drought. For
instance, prolonged drought in 2016/2017 yielded low agricultural productivity that resulted in food prices increasing by a third.

Questions

  1. What major changes in climate has Kenya had to deal with?
  2. How has climate change affected Kenya?
  3. Have climate conditions improved and are conditions projected to improve? What do the climate projections suggest?
  4. Do the United States and other economically advanced nations have a responsibility to provide aid to Kenya? Explain.

Topic: Climate Change Impact on Sub-Sahara Desert
Aim: How is climate change affecting regions bordering the Sahara Desert?
Climate change in sub-Sahara arid regions has led to an increase in temperature, changes in rainfall levels, an increase in sea level, desertification, deforestation and the emergence of new diseases that will seriously impact human life, both in the
area and globally.

Document 1: Climate Changes and Impacts
Source: Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa: from physical changes to their social repercussions.

Document 2: Rising Sea Levels
Source: Climate change impacts in Sub-Saharan
Africa: from physical changes to their social repercussions

Document 3: Is Africa sleepwalking into a potential catastrophe?
Source: BBC. The African continent will be hardest hit by climate change. There are four key reasons for this:
 First, African society is very closely coupled with the climate system; hundreds of millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food
 Second, the African climate system is controlled by an extremely complex mix of large-scale weather systems, many from distant parts of the planet and, in comparison with almost all other inhabited regions, is vastly understudied. It is
therefore capable of all sorts of surprises
 Third, the degree of expected climate change is large. The two most extensive land-based end of-century projected decreases in rainfall anywhere on the planet occur over Africa; one over North Africa and the other over southern Africa
 Finally, the capacity for adaptation to climate change is low; poverty equates to reduced choice at the individual level while governance generally fails to prioritize and act on climate change

Document 4: Deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa: At the end of 1990, Africa had an estimated 528 million hectares, or 30 percent of the world’s tropical forests. In several Sub-Saharan African countries, the rate of deforestation exceeded the
global annual average of 0.8 percent. While deforestation in other parts of the world is mainly caused by commercial logging or cattle ranching the leading causes in Africa are associated with human activity. Developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel, the major energy source for cooking and heating. In Africa, the statistics are striking: an estimated 90 percent of the entire continent’s population uses fuelwood for cooking, and in SubSaharan Africa, firewood and brush supply
approximately 52 percent of all energy sources. Source: African Technology Forum

Document 5: Deforestation: It is difficult to imagine that such vast ancient woodlands are at risk of extinction. But they are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), indigenous (also
known as “old-growth”) forests in Africa are being cut down at a rate of more than 4 mn hectares per year — twice the world’s deforestation average.
According to the FAO, losses totalled more than 10 percent of the continent’s total forest cover between 1980 and 1995 alone. Source: “Saving Africa’s
Forests, ‘The Lungs of The World’
by Michael Fleshman.

Document 6: Desertification: Desertification is defined as the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by climatic variations and human activities. Simply put, desertification is the process by which fertile lands become deserts, typically because of drought, deforestation or inappropriate agriculture. Desertification affects up to 30 percent of land worldwide, and 1.5 billion people around the world depend on land at risk from desertification for their main source of food or income. Seventy-four percent of these people already live in poverty.

In sub-Saharan Africa, desertification may force up to 50 million people to flee their homes by 2020. Since 1923, the Sahara Desert has expanded by 10 percent, especially affecting people living in the Sahel region. Dryland covers 65 percent of the African continent, and 70 to 80 percent of people in Ethiopia and Kenya are threatened by
desertification. Source: The Borgen Project

Document 7: Desertification: Desertification is most severe in Africa. Arid lands account for two-thirds of the African continent, and three-quarters of the continent’s drylands that are used for agriculture have already begun to lose productivity. A total of 45 percent of Africa’s population lives in drylands that are susceptible to desertification, according to the United Nations Development Program’s Drylands Population Assessment II. In Kenya, a three-year drought has withered crops and killed livestock, leaving thousands of people without adequate food supplies. Two-thirds of the country’s land has been severely affected by the drought, and over 40 percent of Kenya’s cattle and up to 20 percent of its sheep and goats have perished,
according to the Arid Lands Resource Management Project, a government initiative. In neighboring Tanzania, widespread tree felling threatens to transform much of the country’s forest into desert. In early January, Vice President Omar Ali Juma called attention to the worsening problem, noting that the country is losing between 320,000 and 1.2 million acres of forest land each year to the expansion of agricultural lands and to increased demand for fuelwood. Livestock herders also contribute to the deterioration of Tanzania’s forests by moving their herds from arid areas in the north to the vegetation- and water-rich forests of the south.

Questions

  1. What climate problems are affecting Africa?
  2. Why are deforestation and desertification threatening the survival of sub-Saharan Africa?
  3. How can deforestation and desertification in Africa be prevented

Topic: Pandemics
Aim: How does the world’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic illustrate about the possibilities for responding to climate change? The response to the Corona Virus pandemic led to an unintended decrease in human causes of climate change.

“Levels of air pollutants and warming gases over some cities and regions are showing significant drops as coronavirus impacts work and travel.

With global economic activity ramping down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is hardly surprising that emissions of a variety of gases related to energy and transport would be reduced.”
Source: Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads

“Traffic levels in the [New York] city were estimated to be down 35% compared with a year ago. Emissions of carbon monoxide, mainly due to cars and trucks, have fallen by around 50% for a couple of days this week according to researchers at Columbia University. They have also found that there was a 5-10% drop in CO2 over New York and a solid drop in methane as well.”

In Los Angeles, New York, Manila and Milan, the skies clear as air pollution drops. In Venice, the canal water is clear enough to see fish, and dolphins are returning. What would the world be like if we decided to pursue this trend?

Less asthma and cancer, fewer lung and heart diseases, fewer deaths. More beauty in our lives. A slowing of global emissions.” Source: Opinion |Does Coronavirus Bring a New Perspective on Climate Change?

“People in the northern Indian state of Punjab are reacting with awe at the sight of the Himalayan mountain range, which is now visible from more than 100 miles away due to the reduction in air pollution caused by the country’s coronavirus
lockdown.” Source: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/himalayasvisible-lockdown-india-scli-intl/index.html
Video: Coronavirus lockdown: What Impact on the Planet?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVYdWhzAbD0

Questions

  1. What response to climate change did the coronavirus cause globally?
  2. How did this pandemic lessen the effects of climate change?
  3. As countries plan to restart their economies, what are some changes they should consider in light of unintended consequences of quarantine?

East Africa Confronts New Climate Change Plague
Aim: How has climate change caused the worst Desert Locust in over seventy years in the Horn of Africa?
Rising numbers of Desert Locusts in East Africa are a threat to food security and livelihood. Kenya is experiencing the worst Desert Locust infestation in over seventy years.

Document 1: Desert Locusts. “The eighth plague that the Judaic God launched against the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Old Testament story of Exodus was swarms of locust. The locust covered the sun and devoured everything green in
the fields. This immense locust swarm is a direct result of global warming and climate change. Warming of the Indian Ocean produced record heavy rainfall in the region from October through December, accelerating the breeding and growth of
the desert locust.
Source: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/3/5/1924511/-World-Confronts-New-Climate-Change-Plagues

Document 2: Effects of Desert Locusts. “Kenya is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in 70 years, and the infestation has spread through much of the eastern part of the continent and the Horn of Africa, razing pasture and croplands in Somalia and Ethiopia and sweeping into South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda and Tanzania. The highly mobile creatures can travel over 80 miles a day. Their swarms, which can contain as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer, eat the same amount of food daily as about 35,000 people.”
Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/21/world/africa/locusts-kenya-eastafrica.html?searchResultPosition=1

Document 3: “Rising numbers of Desert Locusts present an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the Horn of Africa. It is the worst outbreak of Desert Locusts seen in the region for decades. Tens of thousands of
hectares of croplands and pasture have been damaged in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia with potentially severe consequences in a region where 11.9 million people are already food insecure. The potential for destruction is enormous.” Rising
temperatures also mean locusts can mature more quickly and spread to higher elevation environments. Given that many locusts are adapted to arid regions, if climate change expands the geographic extent of these lands, locusts could
expand their range as well. “Therefore, in general, locust outbreaks are expected to become more frequent and severe under climate change,” said Arianne Cease, director of the Global Locust Initiative at Arizona State University. Source:
http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1258877/icode/

Questions:

  1. How has climate changed caused faster breeding and growth of Desert Locust?
  2. How have increased swarms of Desert Locust devastated life in Kenya?

Topic: Climate Change
Aim: Can the world reverse global warming?
“Socratic Seminar CRQ “Task: Have students seating arranged to participate in a Socratic Seminar Using specific details from each document, students should discuss:

  1. What is the goal of each author?
  2. How do youth become important in affecting change?
  3. If you had Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Greta Thunberg over for a dinner party- what would they say to each other? What would they say to you? (Think about each person’s goals, methods, areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, etc.)

Informed Action/Extension activities: Donald Trump (Republican) and Joseph Biden (Democrat) will need to present a plan to address climate change as they try to appeal to American voters. Research each candidate’s
policy proposals/actions on climate change and prepare a graphic organizer to illustrate these with you class. What policy proposals and decisions do you agree with? Disagree with?

“My message is that we’ll be watching you.”
“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side
of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m
one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are
collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is
money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and
solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

Who is Greta addressing in this speech?
Who are “us” that Greta is referring to?

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the
situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to
believe.
“The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50%
chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible
chain reactions beyond human control.
“Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping
points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the
aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking
hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely
exist.
“So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the
consequences.
“To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the
best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had
420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already
down to less than 350 gigatons.
“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some
technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be
entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.
“There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here
today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature
enough to tell it like it is.
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.
“We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the
line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

Why does Greta think current climate change initiatives will fail?
“And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is” What is ironic about
this statement?
What “change” is Greta alluding to?

Document I: Climate activist Greta Thunberg, 16, addressed the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on September 23, 2019. Here’s the full transcript of Thunberg’s speech, beginning with her response to a question about the message she has for world leaders.

Questions
1) In your opinion, was Greta Thunberg’s speech effective in moving young people to take action against climate change?
2) What part(s) of Greta’s speech had the strongest impact? Why?
3) Greta Thunberg was 16 years old when she delivered this speech to the United Nations. Does this fact make her speech more or less powerful?
Explain.

Document 2: Statement by Martin Luther King Jr. at the Youth Leadership Conference, April 15, 1960
Background: Over two hundred student and adult activists gathered at Shaw University for an Easter weekend youth conference to discuss the growing
sit-in movement. King issued this statement at a press conference on the opening day of the meeting. The following day, King addressed a mass meeting at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. During the three-day conference, youth leaders voted to create the Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

This is an era of offensive on the part of oppressed people. All peoples deprived of dignity and freedom are on the march on every continent throughout the world. The student sit-in movement represents just such an offensive in the history of the Negro
peoples’ struggle for freedom. The students have taken the struggle for justice into their own strong hands. In less than two months more Negro freedom fighters have revealed to the nation and the world their determination and courage than has occurred in many years. They have embraced a philosophy of mass direct nonviolent action. They are moving away from tactics which are suitable merely for gradual and long-term change.

Today the leaders of the sit-in movement are assembled here from ten states and some forty communities to evaluate these recent sit-ins and to chart future goals. They realize that they must now evolve a strategy for victory. Some elements which
suggest themselves for discussion are:

1) The need for some type of continuing organization. Those who oppose justice are
well organized. To win out the student movement must be organized.
2) The students must consider calling for a nation-wide campaign of “selective buying.” Such a program is a moral act. It is a moral necessity to select, to buy from these agencies, these stores, and businesses where one can buy with dignity and self-respect. It is immoral to spend one’s money where one cannot be treated with respect.
3) The students must seriously consider training a group of volunteers who will
willingly go to jail rather than pay bail or fines. This courageous willingness to go to
jail may well be the thing to awaken the dozing conscience of many of our white
brothers. We are in an era in which a prison term for a freedom struggle is a badge of honor.
4) The youth must take the freedom struggle into every community in the South without exception. The struggle must be spread into every nook and cranny. Inevitably this broadening of the struggle and the determination which it represents will arouse vocal and vigorous support and place pressures on the federal government that will compel its intervention.
5) The students will certainly want to delve deeper into the philosophy of nonviolence. It must be made palpably clear that resistance and nonviolence are not in themselves good. There is another element that must be present in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community. The tactics of nonviolence without the spirit of nonviolence may indeed become a new kind of violence.

Questions

  1. What was the purpose of “sit-ins” of the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement? Why was it important for students to become involved?
  2. What is a climate strike?
  3. What are similarities and differences between the climate strikes of today and the sit-ins of the 1960’s?

Document 3: American Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 USC 431-433
Sec. 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of
antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon
conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.
Sec. 2. That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits
of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
Sec. 3. That permits for the examination of ruins, the excavation of archaeological sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity upon the lands under their respective jurisdictions may be granted by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, and War to institutions which the may deem properly qualified to conduct such examination, excavation, or gathering, subject to such rules and regulation as they may prescribe.
Sec. 4. That the Secretaries of the Departments aforesaid shall make and publish from time to time uniform rules and regulations for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act. Approved, June 8, 1906.
President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law on June 8, 1906.

Read the following quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt. Choose one of these quotes. For this quote:

  1. Define the historical context behind President Roosevelt’s words.
  2. Explain and give examples of how the Antiquities Act (1906) could be used to improve the situation(s) Roosevelt brings attention to.

Quote #1: “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the
time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still
further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding
the fields and obstructing navigation.”

Quote #2: “But we are, as a whole, still in that low state of civilization where we do
not understand that it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the
destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals— not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.”

Socratic Seminar CRQ “Task: Have students seating arranged to participate in a Socratic Seminar. Using specific details from each document, students should discuss:
1) What is the goal of each author?
2) How do youth become important in affecting change?
If you had Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Greta Thunberg over for a dinner party what would they say to each other? What would they say to you? (Think about each person’s goals, methods, areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, etc.)

Informed Action/Extension activities:
1) Donald Trump (Republican) and Joseph Biden (Democrat) will need to present a plan to address climate change as they try to appeal to American voters. Research each candidate’s policy proposals/actions on climate change and prepare a graphic organizer to illustrate these with your class.
What policy proposals and decisions do you agree with? Disagree with?

2) A great project is launching a Climate Emergency Campaign in your community. The Climate Emergency Campaign asks local governments to declare a climate emergency. Students can lobby school boards to mandate teaching how climate change threatens local communities and human civilization. In 2017, Hoboken, New Jersey was the first city in the United States and the third city in the world to
declare a Climate Emergency. Hoboken is located on the Hudson River flood plain and suffered serious damage during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The Climate Mobilization website has a sample Climate Emergency resolution.



Learning Global Citizenship through UN Sustainable Development Goals

Jiwon Kim and Christine Grabowski
Monmouth University

We live in one world. What we do affects others, and what others do affects us, now more than ever. To recognize that we are all members of a world community and that we all have responsibilities to each other is not romantic rhetoric, but modern economic and social reality (McNulty, Davies, and Maddoux, 2010). If our neighborhoods and nations are both affecting and being affected by the world, then our political consciousness must be world-minded (Merryfield and Duty, 2008). A sense of global mindedness or global awareness must also be promoted in elementary school, but many educators still find it challenging. The purpose of this article is to explore how we engage elementary students in learning global issues and to examine how introducing United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to the elementary classroom helps young students develop their interest and understanding of current issues in the world and become active citizens.

Global Citizenship Education and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Scholarship on globalization suggests that new forms of democratic citizenship and politics are emerging (Andreotti, 2011; Davies, 2006; Gaudelli, 2016; Myers, 2006; Oxley & Morris, 2010; Parker, 2011; Schattle, 2008), and this demands critical and active global citizenship education. As Myers (2006) indicates, however, “while a global perspective is often incorporated into the curriculum and courses, the concept of global citizenship, suggesting a commitment and responsibility to the global community based in human rights, is less coherent” (p. 389).  

Citizenship is a verb – learning about our nation and the world, thinking about dilemmas of equality and equity, and acting on issues of collective concern (Boyle-Base and Zevin, 2009). Therefore, Global citizenship relates to important concepts such as awareness, responsibility, participation, cross-cultural empathy, international mobility, and achievement (Schattle, 2008). From this perspective, global education should be global citizenship education. Understanding and concern for such issues should lead to action, and local, state, and global studies should be used as a “springboard for deliberation, problem-solving, and community action” (Boyle-Base, et al. 2011). Boyle-Base and Zevin (2009) propose a three-part framework of citizenship: Young citizens of the world (and their teachers) should be informed, reflective, and active. This model means (1) becoming informed (about ideas, events, and issues); (2) thinking it through (presenting fair and balanced views), and (3) taking action (teaching deliberation, decision-making, and civic action) (Boyle-Base, et al., 2011).

We adopted this model in order to engage elementary students in global issues, by introducing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) to an elementary classroom. The Model United Nations is well known with many students participating in this program, but few realize that the UN SDGs are designed to educate our society and transform the world.  The UN SDGs, officially known as ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ is a set of 17 Global Goals around world issues. On September 2015, countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, addressing the need to limit the rise of global temperatures. Governments, businesses, and civil society together with the United Nations, are mobilizing efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030. Universal, inclusive and indivisible, the agenda calls for action by all countries to improve the lives of people everywhere. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved. The 17 goals are as follows:

The UN and UNESCO explicitly support these goals and resources that are useful materials for global citizenship education. While global citizenship is geared towards older students, there are many ways that elementary school teachers can apply these goals and resources within their classroom. For example, the World’s Largest Lesson, which is a website created in partnership with UNICEF and UNESCO, introduces the Sustainable Development Goals to children and young people everywhere and unites them in action through various projects. If educators are planning an assembly or a lesson to introduce the Global Goals, there are a lot of resources listed on the website and educators can choose them based on the specific goal (http://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/). These resources include training courses, activities, books, films, games, lesson plans for each grade level, decorations and posters, as well as support for students’ action and change project. Materials are available in English and nine other languages. Students can share their work online and help create a map of the world, for instance, that reflects why Goal 5, Gender Equality, is so relevant worldwide today.

Context

Mrs. G, an elementary school teacher leads a multi grade third and fourth grade class of sixteen students. This unique style of teaching embodies project-based learning with one to one Chromebooks for the students.  They are not seated at traditional desks; instead students are seated at whiteboard tables with rolling chairs for flexible collaboration and learning. Self-driven students who take initiative in their own learning, had become integral parts of how this exciting project about the UN SDGs had grown and developed. 

The UN SDGs lessons started out as requirement for the preservice teachers of Monmouth University that were presented in the third and fourth grade classroom. As the interest piqued in the classroom, Mrs. G decided to capitalize on students’ enthusiasm and design classroom activities to address the UN SDGs at their developmental level. The goal was for the students to become more globally aware about issues in the world, while honing their reading, writing, research, and presentation skills. This unit project addressed multiple NCSS standards and C3 Framework.

Table 1: Social Studies Standards Addressed in This Unit Project

Social Studies Standards
Addressed in This Unit Project
         NJCSS C3 Framework
1. CULTURE



2. PEOPLE, PLACES, AND
ENVIRONEMNTS




3. INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT
AND IDENTITY



4. INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS, AND
INSTITUTIONS






5. POWER, AUTHORITY, AND
GOVERNANCE





6. PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION,
AND CONSUMPTION




7. GLOBAL CONNECTION





8. CIVIC IDEALS AND PRACTICES  
D1.2.3-5. Identify disciplinary
concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question that are
open to different interpretations.
D2.Civ.2.3-5. Explain how a
democracy relies on people’s
responsible participation, and
draw implications for how
individuals should participate.
D2.Civ.6.3-5. Describe ways in
which people benefit from and are challenged by working together,
including through government,
workplaces, voluntary
organizations, and families.
D2.Civ.7.3-5. Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school
settings.
D2.Civ.10.3-5. Identify the beliefs, experiences, perspectives, and
values that underlie their own and others’ points of view about civic
issues.
D2.Soc.3.9-12. Identify how social context influences individuals.
D2.Soc.6.9-12. Identify the major components of culture.
D2.Soc.7.9-12. Cite examples of how culture influences the individuals
in it.
D2.Soc.13.9-12. Identify
characteristics of groups, as well as the effects groups have on
individuals and society, and the
effects of individuals and societies on groups.
D2.Soc.16.9-12. Interpret the effects of inequality on groups and
individuals.
D2.Soc.18.9-12. Propose and
evaluate alternative responses to
inequality.
D4.3.3-5. Present a summary of
arguments and explanations to
others outside the classroom using print and oral technologies
(e.g., posters, essays, letters,
debates, speeches, and reports) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary)
D4.6.3-5. Draw on disciplinary
concepts to explain the challenges people have faced and
opportunities they have created, in addressing local, regional, and
global problems at various times
and places.
D4.7.3-5.Explain different strategies and approaches students and others could take in working alone and
together to address local, regional, and global problems, and predict
possible results of their actions.
D4.8.3-5. Use a range of deliberative and democratic procedures to make decisions about and act on civic
problems in their classrooms and
schools.

This was accomplished through a multifaceted project that included learning about the UN Sustainable Development Goals through reading, research, presenting a goal, and sharing. Additionally, there was discussing information through a class blog, and leading and participating in service projects. This project continued in the successive school year due to the success and interest in the project.

Part I: Becoming Informed

Reading and Research

While introducing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, one challenge was to ensure that elementary students could understand these complex concepts. In the beginning, students were introduced to two brief videos that gave an overview of the UN Goals in terminology that was easier for them to understand. Next, each of the sixteen students was assigned one of the goals to research in depth. They were given a rubric with specific items that needed to be included in their presentation. The students were required to include: the name of the goal, the definition of the goal, why the goal is important, and three interesting facts.     

The next step was to research the goals to truly understand the meaning, decide why it would be an important goal for citizens to be aware of and potentially take action. The UN website offers articles, video clips, facts and a plethora of additional information about the goals, but can be difficult for elementary students at various reading levels. The paraprofessional and teacher engaged individual conferences for each student to ensure that there was an understanding of what the student was reading, as well as recommendations of particular parts of the site to focus on for their research. The seventeenth goal, which was not assigned to a student, was completed together as a group. Using the classroom SMART board, Mrs. G led the class in modeling how to find appropriate research, navigate the United Nations website, and make decisions about information that was pertinent to present on the visual document.  

To further develop their reading and research skills, Mrs. G used Newsela, a large database of current events articles that are written at specific Lexile levels. Articles that related to the UN Goals were assigned to the students. They decided which articles to read to assist in gaining more knowledge and understanding of their specific goal. This platform worked well, because it is tailored to the student’s independent reading level, which aids in comprehension of the material. Some students worked with partners to help mitigate difficulties in reading articles and participated in discussions together, in order to better understand the topic of study. Individual conferences with partners and the teacher or paraprofessional were essential in supporting the students in tackling very advanced concepts.  Goal 9- Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure was an especially challenging concept for a young elementary student and required a good deal of discussion with the teacher to ensure understanding of a complicated topic. 

Reading informational text in social studies is the perfect way to enhance learning. However, when the vocabulary and content was above level for many of the students involved in the project, the teacher and paraprofessional met individually to read with students to ensure comprehension of the literature regarding the goals on the UN website. This one on one time was helpful in making sure the elementary school students understood their goal, and were equipped with the knowledge to become experts and explain it to others.                      

Part II: Thinking It Through

Presenting, Sharing and Discussing Information about the Goals

Next the students created a visual product to communicate the required information about their goal using what they have learned through reading and researching their assigned goal. The students created posters in the first year when the project was implemented, and in the next year they used Google Slides to present information about the goal. The expectations on the rubric were the same for both the poster and the digital presentation.

Figure 2: Sample Article from Newsela Website- www.newsela.com 

Table 2: UN SDGs Google Slides Rubric

Please include the following on your slide:

  • Name of goal                                         
  • Definition of goal
  • Why important
  • 3 Interesting facts

UN SDGs Google Slides Rubric

  3 2 1
Name &
Definition
The correct
name and an
accurate
definition is
present
The name or
definition may
be correct
The name and
definition are
not correct
Why Important A clear and
accurate
explanation of why the goal is
important in the world
Attempts to
write an
explanation of why the goal is
important in the word.  May have some ideas that are correct
Does not include why it is
important or it
does not make
sense
3 Interesting
Facts
3 appropriate
facts about the
topic are
present
3 facts that are
not relevant or
just 2 facts are
present
Did not include three facts
Design of Slide The pictures
and design are
related to and
represent the
goal.  Is well
organized
The pictures
make an
attempt to
represent the
goal. Shows
some
organization
The design does not relate to the goal, is
disorganized

The students reflected upon their presentations and completed the rubric self-assessing their work. The expectation was to either draw or find photos that represented the theme of the goal. When making posters, the required information was verbally presented in a recording that eventually was combined with other students using the DoInk app. They used the green screen to record and uploaded the recordings to the app to create a video. The other option was to use a shared Google Slides presentation where each student created one slide to represent their goal and provided the required information. 

Figure 3: Examples of Posters


Figure 4: Examples of Google Slide Presentation

Each student took a turn presenting their visual poster or Google Slide to explain and teach the class about their specific goal. They utilized speaking and listening skills to effectively communicate the information that they researched and engaged in question and answers from their classmates. Mrs. G could also further assess their learning by observing how well they could answer questions about their assigned goal. 


Deliberation through Blog Session 

Next, the students participated in blog sessions to further discuss the goals, their thoughts and opinions.  The blog is an effective tool and another way of assessing the students’ critical thinking skills, knowledge of content, and how they communicate. Google Classroom has a feature to “Create a Question” that allows students to respond to each other. These questions were posed to the sessions:

  • List your goal and write an interesting fact that you learned about your goal.
  • Explain something that surprised you about the goals. Why did it surprise you?
  • What can you do to help achieve the UN goals? 

The explanation of something surprising from the students was enlightening in providing a student perspective at their developmental level. The following is a sample entry with responses:

Student “O”: 

1. My goal is Quality Education. One interesting fact about my goal is more than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub Saharan-Africa.

2. Something surprising I learned from this lesson is that, Goal 16 Peace, Justice, and Institutions is that people all over the world do not have the freedom of speech for their rights. I feel that is devastating to live under rules that are hardly even thought about just made a law. They live under circumstances that are very sad, and that is very careless of people.

3. To help these goals we need to supply things that are needed. Americans can provide books all over the world for Quality Education, We can provide vaccines to needed, we can give food and vitamins needed to people in need.

Student “C”:  Also, for every 100 boys enrolled in school in Sub-Saharan Africa, there’s only 74 girls!

Student “A”:  Where is Saharan-Africa? What is it?                       

Student “J”:  Who tells them that they can’t go to school and why don’t they?

Student “O”:  Saharan is basically all the countries of Africa except the three at the top.

Student “O”:  They can’t’ go to school because some people (dictators, presidents, kings or queens) think that school is a waste of time. They rather kids go and work the fields and harvest crops

Student “J”:  Thanks for the answer

Student “S”:  It is very sad that people don’t get to go to school, but at the same time it might be fun to not go to school for a couple of days but never going to school would be hard. But everybody needs education.

Student “C”:  It’s not fun. The reason they avoid school is to make the kids do work. And they have to work on the fields, harvesting, growing, and taking care of crops ALL DAY, until night!

Student “E”: How many school houses are in Africa?

Student “O”:  Would it really be fun not to be able to read, write, and say the right words in a sentence? What would you do if you couldn’t read or anything? Would you ask your mom to teach you? What if you don’t have a mom? Put yourself in other people’s shoes.

Student “C”:  It wouldn’t be fun at all not to be able to read or write. If we couldn’t read or write, we couldn’t blog now!

Reading the responses of the students allowed Mrs. G to capture a conversation that the students might have in a group discussion in the classroom. It was determined that Student “O” understood that students in Africa and other parts of the world do not have the same opportunity for education that children in the United States are afforded.  The student expressed empathy for children who cannot attend school, and Student “C” even responds stating that they would not be able to blog if they did not have an education.  When the students blogged, there was silence in the classroom because they were all actively engaged using the technology in a meaningful manner. Mrs. G expected the students to answer the three questions and then thoughtfully responded to at least five students in the class with comments and insight. She accessed all of this and could comment on Google Classroom to leave feedback for students.  The use of technology like Google Classroom allowed the class activity to become more student-focused. By assigning students different UN goals, the students were able to take ownership of their own topic and became the class expert who is accountable for discussion on the goal. This enabled the teachers to see the student’s ability to comprehend the UN goals as well as to apply that knowledge gained to form a discussion with their fellow peers. This deliberation process helped students think about higher-order thinking questions beyond immediately noticeable facts. Students sometimes left with some simplistic and self-oriented/US-centric views of the world. Therefore, it was important for Mrs. G. to capture a troubled conversation and follow up as a group discussion in the classroom.

Part III: Taking Action

Leading and Participating in Service Project

Each year of implementation of this project has led to the students taking action to address the UN SDGs. In the first year, the class was saddened and upset to see the prevalence of poverty and hunger in the world. Through a class discussion, they decided to take action and have a food drive to support a local food pantry. Mrs. G led a discussion on local organizations that helped the poor, and ultimately the students decided to support St. Vincent de Paul Pantry at a church that some students attend. They gathered information from the church bulletin, organized a collection based on the pantry’s needs, created flyers and made announcements daily to the school promoting the food drive and giving the school community facts about hunger and poverty. The students used Google Sheets to collect data and provided updates to the school community about the number of items collected. The young learners took ownership of the whole project and completed it to its final steps of packing the donations and sending thank you notes to the St. Vincent de Paul members for their service to the poor. The class felt proud of themselves for spearheading this project that would align with the UN SDGs.

In the following school year, the service project that the class decided to organize was related to recycling and saving the environment. The students collected plastic film to be sent to the Trex Company, which uses recycled materials to make composite lumber. Many schools compete against each other to recycle the most plastic film and Mrs. G’s multi grade class took a leadership role with this contest. The students created a Google Slides presentation, developed flyers to be sent home with students in the school, and visited all of the classes in the school to explain what can be recycled, where the collection bins were placed and all of the details about the project. They weighed and packaged the plastic, as well as recording the data for the competition. The students were proud of their contribution to the UN SDGs and helping the environment. 

Service projects such as these were a wonderful way for students to feel empowered as elementary students.  It started with one student stating in class, “People are hungry, we have to do something to help!” Through this experience, they realized that their small contribution to helping the poor and hungry, or recycling to help the environment were ways that they could join people all over the world to obtain the UN SDGs. They were able to recognize their power as citizens of a global community. It was important to reflect and determine if there was a lasting impression made by studying the UN Goals.

Results: Impact of the Project on the Students

Mrs. G polled her students with Google Forms at the end of the school year to assess the impact that this project had on the students. There were seven questions ranging from how important are the goals to written responses about how they can be global citizens. One student wrote, “The food drive helps the people that are starving and have no money so they get food that is donated from other people. Then they can have food to fill their stomachs.”  Another student commented, “Doing Trex made us global citizens because we helped by recycling. So the world won’t be filled with plastic. Also because we can reuse it.”  Some even commented about the Marker Recycling Program that was underway in the school, or about the garden at their school. They were applying the knowledge that they had gained from the project and analyzing how activities conducted by other organizations relate to the UN SDGs. 

By exposing the elementary students to the UN SDGs, they were given an awareness of the world around them, beyond their community, state, and country. While engaged in this project, most of the students were shocked to hear some of the statistics. Student “S” wrote in her blog post that some people in the world live on $1.25 a day and it elicited quite a discussion. One response from Student “G” was that “People in North Korea and most of Africa live a daily life of poverty.” The class discussion was facilitated by the teacher to assist in explaining different cultures, religions, governments and such in terms that were on the developmental level of the children, including censoring material that would not be appropriate for discussion at their age. Students were more interested and empathetic towards the issues that were associated with their age group children, such as not going to school, than other issues, like living with little money and resources. Also, their understanding of those problems and causes were sometimes limited. This confirms that the blog session is a good tool to promote students’ learning, to assess their understanding, and to inform teachers what they need for the next instruction.

These UN SDGs are global objectives that are being addressed by corporations, governments and even students.  By teaching the children as young as elementary school, they are being provided with information, facts and statistics that reach beyond “their world”.  One young lady wrote a very impactful statement, “We can make our world a better place to be by making these small donations and commitments, but in reality, that can make a lifetime difference.” Empowering young children to believe that they can have an impact will cultivate adults and forward thinking global citizens. 

Conclusion                                                       

The project can be easily adaptable for multiple grade levels to provide elementary school students a creative and interesting way to learn about global issues and give them a lens into other countries and ways of life. Any classroom with Internet access and devices to utilize Google Classroom or other online program such as Otus, Kiddom, or Edmoto can apply the principles of this multifaceted project.  

The three-part framework: (1) becoming informed (about ideas, events, issues); (2) thinking it through (presenting fair and balanced views); and (3) taking action (teaching deliberation, decision-making, and civic action) effectively engaged elementary students in learning global issues. The UN SDGs were a good source and tool in carrying out this model.

While there are few studies and practices of teaching the United Nations and global issues in elementary level, this classroom practice provides a good example of how it can be successfully done and build young learners’ global awareness and active citizenship. ELA, science, math, and the arts can be integrated in addition to Social Studies as well as the skills of reading, interpreting, and presenting can be taught in this unit project learning. Because it deals with subject matter that is of immediate interest and bridges school learning with life outside school, it is highly motivating to critically think and take action. It provides elementary school students with information that they have not been exposed to and helps them build a knowledge base for understanding current and future problems.

References 

Andreotti, V. O. (2011). (Towards) decoloniality and diversality in global citizenship education, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 9(3-4), 381-397.

Boyle-Base, M. & Zevin, J. (2009). Young citizens of the world: Teaching elementary social studies through civic engagement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Boyle-Base, M., Bernens-Kinkead, D., Coake, W., Loudermilk, L., Lukasik, D. & Podany, W. (2011). Citizenship as a verb teaching students to become informed, think it through, and take action, Social Studies and The Young Learner, 24(1), 5-9.

Davies, L. (2006). Global citizenship: Abstraction or framework for action?, Educational Review, 58(1), 5-25.

Gaudelli, W. (2016). Global citizenship education: Everyday transcendence, New York, NY: Routledge.

Mcnulty, C. P., Davies, M. & Maddoux, M. (2010). Living in the global village: Strategies for teaching mental flexibility, Social Studies and The Young Learner, 23(2), 21-24.

Merryfield, M. M. & Duty, L. (2008). Globalization. In J. Arthur, I. Davies, & C. Hahn (Eds.), The sage handbook of education for citizenship and democracy (pp. 80-91). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Myers, M. P. (2006). Rethinking the social studies curriculum in the context of globalization: Education for global citizenship in the U.S., Theory & Research in Social Education, 34(3), 370-394.

Oxley, L. & Morris, P. (2013). Global citizenship: A typology for distinguishing its multiple conceptions, British Journal of Educational Studies, 61(3), 301-325.

Parker, W.C. (2011). ‘International education’ in US public schools, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 9(3-4), 487-501.

Schattle, H.  (2008). The practices of global citizenship, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers