Climate Change Education: A Model of Justice-Oriented STEM Education
In recent years the connection between social justice and the natural sciences, math, and engineering has become more apparent. We have seen how marginalized peoples—women; low-income people; and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)—are disproportionally burdened by the disparities created by impacts of global phenomena, such as the coronavirus pandemic and severe weather events exacerbated by climate change. Research and advances in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are able to offer methods and tools to support communities developing solutions that mitigate and adapt to these global catastrophes. However, STEM research cannot create just solutions without recognizing the power and leadership of under-included and marginalized communities. Furthermore, STEM educators must create education experiences that prepare students, teachers, and communities to better understand racist systems and create science-based solutions that are grounded in social justice.
In this article, we highlight climate change education as an example of justice-oriented STEM education and showcase how teacher professional development—using the annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education as an example—can be structured to give educators a foundation in both the scientific and social ways of understanding climate change as a global phenomenon. Further, we offer methods that educators and education administrators can use to transform their classrooms and curricula into justice-oriented STEM learning opportunities.