For the Classroom
It's easy to bring this big issue into your small classroom when you consider how many small actions have led to this problem. Get creative about not only teaching the concepts but walking the talk. Do whatever you can to reduce your classroom's carbon footprint.
Climate Versus Weather
Climate is how warm or cold or wet or dry a place normally is over a long period of time. You can talk about climate by discussing the typical seasons in the place where you live. What is summer usually like? What is it like in the winter? Weather, on the other hand, is what happens every day. It is fickle and can change unexpectedly. You may not know what the weather will be, but you know what the seasons typically bring.
Plants, bugs, birds, and animals are used to dealing with whatever weather and climate they live in. They've grown and lived through it for thousands of years. If the climate is changed, they may not be able to live in it anymore. Think of putting a cactus in the rain forest or moving a polar bear to the desert. They wouldn't be used to the climate and wouldn't be able to find the right kind of food to eat or homes to raise their babies. It's easier for people because we can change from jeans into shorts if it gets a bit warmer or go inside and turn on a fan, but the plants, bugs, birds, and animals can't do this.
To demonstrate this on a smaller scale, take two identical small plants and place thermometers in the pots. Place a glass bowl or a small greenhouse over one. The one that has the greenhouse should be placed in a sunny spot or near a heating vent. The other plant should be placed in a location that is appropriate for it to thrive. Read the thermometer in each pot regularly so you can see how much warmer the “climate” is for one compared to the other. Over time, watch the growth (or lack of growth) and discuss how the climate is impacting the plant.
There are a lot of tough words in this book. It's more memorable and a better learning opportunity if students are in charge of defining new concepts. Encourage them to raise their hands when they hear a word they don't know and then have them look it up and read the definition aloud.
Another variation is to use two different plants like a cactus plant and another typical houseplant. Read the directions for the cactus and do what is expected. Read the directions for the other houseplant and do the opposite of what is expected. Don't water it and don't give it the sunlight it needs. See how long it lasts.
What's Your Climate and How Has It Changed
Everyone loves talking (and complaining) about the weather. For a week or a month or even the whole school year, you can chart the weather for each day on your classroom calendar. The most important thing to watch is daily temperature; older students can also chart precipitation.
Look at a comparison over time by researching historical averages. Go online and search “historical temperature averages” for your city. How warm was the average for this time of year five years ago? Twenty years ago? Fifty years ago? Likewise, you can compare precipitation averages over time. Is it getting wetter? Drier? You can also chart storms and extreme weather like tornadoes. Are there more than there used to be?