Teach Climate Justice

The climate crisis affects the future of all our students, so it should be at the center of the curriculum. We offer resources for teacher professional development and the classrooms, including videos from our teach-ins with the National Museum of the American Indian (sign up now for the 2024 teach-ins), books for K–12, a climate crisis timeline, a short documentary about water, and a call to action.


Short Films for the Classroom


Indigenous Earth Law

What does it mean to think beyond nature? How would our approach to the climate crisis shift if we were to view Earth as a living relative with protections under law? Dr. Kelsey Leonard (Shinnecock) gave a keynote address at our 2021 Indigenous Peoples’ Day Curriculum Teach-In held in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Leonard explored the emerging area of Earth law, explained its connection to Indigenous law, and charted a path forward for our shared sustainable future. She highlighted the role of Junior Water Walkers, a program “to help students establish and strengthen their connection to water.”

 


Water and Food Justice

At our 2020 Indigenous Peoples’ Day Curriculum Teach-In held in collaboration with NMAI, Winona LaDuke gave a keynote address on water and food justice. LaDuke talked about the importance of biodiversity, especially in light of climate change and the pandemic. “We’re going to learn what re-localization is about.” LaDuke envisioned a post-petroleum agricultural system and talked about the importance of hemp. “If you could take all the things you make of plastic and make them out of hemp, that would be revolutionary.”


Water Has a Memory

In this 11-minute documentary produced by Lush, matriarch and environmental ambassador for the Ponca Nation, Casey Camp-Horinek, talks about the “environmental genocide” that the extractive industry is wreaking on Ponca City, Oklahoma, through fracking, leaking oil tanks, and more. Casey discusses the importance of women in protecting Mother Earth through the ancestral teachings of her Ponca culture.


Books for K–12 and Educators

recommended


At our Social Justice Books website, we feature more than 100 booklists and 500 book reviews, including a booklist on Environmental and Climate Justice. The books are selected and reviewed by our staff, volunteers, and a variety of trusted children’s literature websites.

not recommended

We offer critiques of books that mislead young readers about the environment and social change. For example, many picture books do Greta Thunberg a disservice by placing her on a pedestal in isolation of longstanding and diverse social movements. Other books describe climate disasters in the Global South without any reference to the root causes of colonization or multinational corporations. Below are some examples.

Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker

Greta Thunberg by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

The Mangrove Tree by Cindy Trumbore, Susan L. Roth

A Passion for Elephants by Toni Buzzeo


Central American Connections

On our Teaching Central America website, we offer resources on the climate and environment in Central America. These include:

Beauty and Eco-Relationships in the Natural World of Central America. In this art lesson for elementary and middle school by Karen O. Brown, students learn about a bird, a frog, and a butterfly (the Motmot of El Salvador, the Exquisite Spike-Thumb Frog Plectrohyla exquisita of Honduras, and the Owl Butterfly from Guatemala). They then draw and design their own books about the animals.

Gold or Water? The Struggle Against Mining in El Salvador. This short film explores how residents in the northern Salvadoran community of Santa Marta are fighting U.S. and Canadian mining companies eager to extract the rich veins of gold buried near the Lempa River, the water source for more than half of El Salvador’s 6.2 million people. This story is also described in The Water Defenders: How Ordinary People Saved a Country from Corporate Greed by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh.

Researchers Uncover 2,000-Year-Old Maya Water Filtration System by Livia Gershon for Smithsonian Magazine. This article describes how the city of of Tikal purified one of its reservoirs with technology comparable to modern systems. An ideal reading for science lessons on water filtration.


Climate Crisis Timeline

Our Zinn Education Project’s (with Rethinking Schools) climate crisis timeline traces its roots from European colonial expansion and racial capitalism to present-day fossil fuel industry and government projects that exploit and destroy the Earth in the name of maximum profit. It also emphasizes moments and movements of resistance and activism that inform climate justice work today. Scientific discoveries and disinformation — who knew what, when, and to what ends — punctuate this history, as do accelerating catastrophes that emphasize the urgency of the crisis.


More Resources

Find many more resources for teaching about climate and environmental justice at the Zinn Education Project’s Teach Climate Justice campaign page.

Teach Climate Justice Resources

 


Teach Truth Day of Action

Young people are taking on immense and interconnected challenges in the world — racism, war, gun violence, climate change, voter suppression, and more. In response, the right is passing laws in almost every state to squash that activism by censoring lessons about oppression and resistance.

In this election year, we need to reach as many people as possible with information about the chilling effect of these laws and how they threaten any chance of an informed and engaged democracy. The climate crisis is among the most censored topics. Join the campaign to spread the word — it is easy to participate.

Join the Day of Action


Donate

Give today to expand our offerings of climate justice lessons, professional learning opportunities, booklists, and more.

Make a Donation