Academic journal article Science Scope

Walking a Thin Line

Academic journal article Science Scope

Walking a Thin Line

Article excerpt

It was very difficult to teach my own children how to be safety conscious yet still daring enough to take measured risks in order to enjoy and experience the world around them. Science teachers must walk that same thin line in their classrooms when giving students safety instructions and guidelines. There is a delicate balance between making students properly aware and scaring them to the point of being afraid to touch lab equipment or participate in lab activities; yet providing this kind of guidance is our responsibility as parents and as teachers, and we must get the message right because of the high stakes of personal safety involved.

This same fine line exists when we teach our students about environmental issues--especially those related to climate change. Most of the projected outcomes and predictions are dramatically negative, and students may feel a deep sense of defeat, doom, and despair as they learn about and discuss these topics.

At the NSTA Denver area conference in December, I attended a session presented by Jeffrey T. Kiehl, a senior scientist in the Climate Change Research section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado (http://ncar.ucar.edu). Kiehl presented an overview of the recently released assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and he addressed the possibility that feelings of hopelessness about the climatic future can be traumatizing, which may be the reason why many people now wish to avoid discussion of the issue or reject the negative possibilities outright: It presents too many psychological, economic, and social threats. …

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