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10 videos to watch to discuss climate change with students

By Lauren McAlpine on February 1, 2021 in News + Updates, TED-Ed Innovative Educators



TED-Ed Innovative Educator, Kim Preshoff, based in Williamsville, NY, has been an environmental teacher for over 30 years.

Here, Preshoff shares a list of TED-Ed Lessons and TED Talks to watch and discuss with students.

As an environmental educator for more than 30 years, I have had the unique perspective of watching the climate change issue evolve over time and see first-hand students that care about what is happening. They care about future generations and they want change. So, how can we help them? Climate change can be a daunting and sometimes scary topic to discuss. My consistent response: “Knowledge is power!” Only by providing students with the science of climate change, and perspectives about what is truly happening in areas across the world, can we empower them to make a difference. Climate change must become a daily topic of discussion in classrooms across the globe, and part of everyday conversations.

TED has created several unique and informative lessons on climate change that will provide students, educators, and parents with the science and background necessary to understand the true impact of this issue. I consider these five animations my must-watch list:

Climate change: Earth’s giant game of Tetris - Joss Fong

Using the game Tetris as a comparison, this video is a terrific introduction to the carbon cycle, what can cause an imbalance in that cycle, and how that imbalance is affecting Earth’s climate. Can you define the greenhouse effect? You will after this lesson! It also covers the creation of fossil fuels, how they cause today’s imbalance in the carbon cycle, and the effect deforestation has on the carbon budget. This lesson is a fun and unique way to present the difficult topic of the carbon cycle.

Is the weather actually becoming more extreme? – R. Saravanan

Knowing the difference between weather and climate is a key point in the discussion of climate change issues.  Extreme weather events such as heat waves, wildfires and tropical cyclones have been increasing over the last 40 years. Could climate change be the culprit? Earth’s average temperature has increased nearly 1 degree C over the last 150 years– the end result is more energy in Earth’s atmosphere, and in turn more extreme weather events. Questions about climate versus weather? This lesson will clarify the differences.

Why the Arctic is climate change’s canary in the coal mine - William Chapman

How can the Arctic be used as a predictor of climate change? The Arctic region is kept in balance with feedback loops– both positive and negative.  Positive loops amplify effects while negative loops stabilize effects. Studying these feedback loops in relation to cloud cover, melting sea ice, and reflectivity can help scientists predict the effects of climate change. The Arctic is the most often talked about region in regard to climate change– this lesson will provide the background information needed to understand why.

Underwater farms vs. Climate change – Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Megan Davis

What exactly is aquaculture? Can aquaculture help fight climate change? Is there a sustainable way to farm the ocean? Aquaculture, while providing food for people, can have some negative repercussions. The answer: restorative ocean farming. A sustainable underwater farm can feed people a more healthy diet, provide jobs, and, at the same time, sequester carbon from the atmosphere. When students are looking for potential solutions to climate change– use this lesson as an example.

Can wildlife adapt to climate change? – Erin Eastwood

How resilient is nature in adapting to climate change? Scientists have seen changes in organisms, but many of these changes are not heritable. Approximately 20 different species have evolved adaptations to climate change. While this might seem like good news, humans will have to play a role in maintaining biodiversity, and helping species to continue to thrive in this changing environment. This lesson may provide a bit of hope about animals versus climate change.

In addition to these lessons, TED’s new initiative COUNTDOWN, has amplified TED Talks that provide great perspectives on issues around the world that people are facing everyday. Remember, with climate change problems, there are also climate change solutions. Through learning new perspectives, we can truly understand what other communities are going through and make changes that positively impact every person on this planet. Here are the TED Talks on my must-watch list:

10 years to transform the future of humanity or destabilize the planet - Johan Rockstrom

Has the Earth reached its climate change tipping point that could potentially make earth uninhabitable for future generations? Evidence is pointing to yes; we have begun to potentially destabilize Earth as we know it, yet we have failed to mitigate climate change. Rising sea levels, permafrost belching methane, and interwoven systems may be the downfall of Earth’s stability. Want solutions? Stewardship, science, a view of Earth as a global commons, and a willingness to change. This TED Talk will provide you with a solid foundation about what is happening in regard to climate change.

Cities are driving climate change.  Here’s how they can fix it - Angel Hsu

Urban areas contain the majority of people on Earth, and these cities have a great impact on climate change. They can decrease our carbon footprint or they can be urban heat islands. One solution is equity in greenspace for all residents of all economic levels and races. This talk provides perspective about the unique issues encountered by people living in large urban areas, and ways they can mitigate the effects of climate change.

Climate justice cannot happen without racial justice - David Lammy

When struggling with racial injustices, climate change gets put on the back-burner. But racial and climate injustices must be addressed together. Who is most likely to breathe in polluted air, live in an area suffering from extreme heat, or have homes surrounded by fewer trees? People of color who make up a greater percentage of our low economic communities. Often, individuals and countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are  those who contribute the least to the issue. Only by bringing all stakeholders to the climate change discussion can this truly be remedied. Watch this talk and gain perspective about the need to involve every citizen in the climate change discussion.

The city planting a million trees in two years - Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr

How can deforestation affect a community? Lack of trees can cause landslides, flooding, and loss of biodiversity. Aki-Sawyerr’s goal is not to just plant trees, but to grow a tree steward program. The end result is a city that is collectively proud to protect itself and its homes as trees are planted in yards, schools, offices, and public spaces. While it may not be the complete answer to climate change, these trees provide a much needed carbon sink for her city. This TED Talk is proof that taking action can truly make a difference.

How to be a good ancestor - Roman Krznaric

We as humans are destroying the environmental inheritance of future generations- those with no voices about what is occurring. We need to become good ancestors, but how? Be a time rebel, extend your vision– look forward to the future, and keep our future Earth inhabitants in mind when planning out goals. Ask kids who to vote for and discuss the future with them. Focus on and learn from nature, regenerate the Earth, and take care of the place that will take care of our offspring. This TED Talk emphasizes the importance of looking forward for the sake of future generations.

Interested in learning more about climate change? Here are some additional resources and platforms:

TED-Ed’s Earth School, a 30-day journey of daily Quests using videos, resources, and activities compiled by Earth experts for students to learn more about the environment and climate change

The Count Us In project, which has 16 actionable steps you can take on your own, with your family, friends or school

United Nations Environment Program

NASA: Global Climate Change

NPR: Resources on Climate change

NOAA Climate

Tags: Climate, Climate Change, climate crisis, Parents, Teaching & Education