Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

The Knowledge Building International Project on Climate Change

Drs. Richard Reeve and Azza Sharkawy document opportunities, challenges and practices that make science curricula more personally and socially relevant to elementary students.

Students sitting around a table with the instructor, studying astronomy on tablets.

Drs. Richard Reeve and Azza Sharkawy’s three- year study is linked to an international research project involving classes around the world (e.g. Toronto, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Quebec City) engaged in computer-supported knowledge building inquiries associated with climate change. The purpose of this study is to document pedagogical opportunities and challenges associated with teaching students about climate change and identify curriculum practices that help students experience school science as more personally and socially relevant.

The revised Ontario Curriculum for Science and Technology, Grades 1-8 (2007) places an emphasis on student understanding of the interrelationships between science, technology, society and the environment at all grade levels. Although there is considerable agreement that engaging productively with socio-scientific issues such as climate change is an important goal of science education, there is limited empirical research on curricula informed by this goal at the elementary level.

Key Findings

  1. Upper elementary students view climate change as a personally and socially relevant problem.
  2. Students found that both online as well as face-to-face group discussions facilitated their interest in and understanding of climate change.
  3. Students expressed a strong sense of agency while using a knowledge building approach to studying about climate change. For example, they used their learning to affect change in their personal lives and the lives of significant others and they initiated socio-political action such as writing to members of government to promote change in environmental policy.

Further Information: Dr. Richard Reeve and Dr. Azza Sharkawy