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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Climate Change is Elementary

Nov 26, 2013 02:26AM

While politicians, pundits and environmentalists discuss the need for action on climate change, a new demographic is committing to action—elementary age children. Climate Change is Elementary (CCIE) conducts in-school events, to educate and empower kids in grades kindergarten through eighth on protecting the environment. The program is spearheaded by educational consultant, Dave Finnigan, who has over 30 years of experience giving school presentations with kindergarten through eighth grade students. His Juggling for Success program, presented in 2,000 schools, helps children build healthy self-esteem and has been linked to improved academic performance.

Finnigan says that Maryland, and many other states, now have a mandate to teach environmental science in schools, but the tense politicization of the issue has left many teachers afraid to touch the topic. Some attempts to discuss climate change with kids have left the children feeling alarmed instead of empowered.

Finnigan states in the environmental movement, “Everybody is talking about how bad it’s going to be if we do everything wrong. There is a lot of gloom and doom.” CCIE overcomes these issues by discussing climate change with teachers, students and parents in a non-political manner and stressing the potential for a bright future rather than impending disaster. “What we want to do is change the conversation to ‘when we do everything right, here’s how great it is going to be’,” Finnigan expresses.

At his school events, students gather a grade at a time to learn about climate change and the impact on various animals and the environment. Each session includes a mix of discussion, games, role-playing and scarf-juggling. “We give each grade an animal mascot. And their job is to help that animal mascot. So one grade gets to be polar bears, and one gets to be penguins, one gets to be trees in the rain forest and one gets to be frogs. They learn about some of the problems that creature is having,” says Finnigan. They learn what they can do to help these creatures in the school-wide assembly at the end of the day.

The culminating event is the evening session when the kids come back to school with their parents. Together the children and parents practice scarf-juggling and then talk about the steps families can take to ensure a clean, green environment. Each family goes home with a sustainability checklist to post on their refrigerator. It is the kids’ job to check off their family’s steps toward a greener future and to thank their parents for their efforts.

Finnigan says that the success of the program hinges on the enthusiastic participation of teachers, parents and students. He learned the hard way that schools which invest money to pay for the program are more likely to dedicate the time and energy to ensure its success. CCIE provides a list of local suppliers of green energy who will give the PTA rebates every time a family takes action to make their homes and vehicles more sustainable.

The first Maryland presentation of Climate Change Is Elementary was held at Laurel Elementary School on November 8. A second one is scheduled for December 4 and 5 in Somerset, Maryland.

Climate Change is Elementary operates as a non-profit project through United Charitable Programs in Alexandria, Virginia. Thus far, Finnigan has tested this program at 17 schools in seven states. Over the next few years, he hopes to train a hundred more presenters to visit all the schools in the U.S.

To arrange a Climate Change is Elementary program at your school or for information about becoming a presenter of this program, visit or email [email protected]


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