Give kids something to talk about, and they'll take it home with them.

Enlarge / Give kids something to talk about, and they’ll take it home with them. (credit: Courtney Celley/USFWS)

There are significant generational differences when it comes to opinions on climate change in the US. Students are more open to learning about this scientific issue without getting snagged on the culture wars that have divided American opinions along political and cultural lines, which probably explains why younger people are less likely than their grandparents to claim that climate science is “a hoax.” But can kids help us with that problem now, or will they have to wait decades for their turn behind the levers of power?

A team of researchers led by North Carolina State University’s Danielle Lawson set out to test how kids affect their parents’ opinions by bringing what they learn home. The researchers recruited middle school teachers in coastal North Carolina, assigning some to try out a specific climate change lesson plan and using the rest as a control group for comparison. In total, about 200 families went through the experimental curriculum, with about 100 kids in the control group taking unchanged classes.

The experimental curriculum consisted of four class activities teaching students about the difference between weather and climate and how climate change impacts the species around them. They then participated in a relevant local community project. This experience was designed to fulfill education standards but also to be similar to other lesson plans in which novel experiences have been shown to get kids talking at home, resulting in parental attitude changes. To that end, the kids were also given an assignment to interview their parents about their perceptions of changes in the local weather.

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