Teaching Climate Change with Historiana

World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5. Although many schools are either in exam season or summer vacation, this particular world day gave me the motive for the following post. Moreover, as climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, affecting ecosystems, economies, and societies globally the issue of the environment and climate change is, unfortunately, topical every day.

Educating students about climate change is crucial for fostering awareness and inspiring action. Historiana, the digital platform for History developed by EuroClio, offers several resources that can help educators teach about climate change through a historical lens. In this blog post, we’ll explore how teachers can utilize Historiana’s materials to effectively incorporate climate change education into their history lessons.

Understanding Climate Change Through Historical Context

Climate change isn’t just a modern issue; it has historical precedents that can provide valuable lessons for today’s students. A starting point could be Historiana’s Narrative under the general title “The European Experience” with the subtitle “Understanding and Controlling Environment”. Alongside the separate Narratives “Science and Technological Change”, “Education and Knowledge”, and “Social Engineering and Welfare”, a unit is formed where the foundations are laid for understanding the causes of human interventions and changes in the environment, mainly in Western Europe, which also led to the taming of energy sources and environmental changes. These resources can help students understand the long-term impacts of human activity on the environment.

Utilizing Primary Sources

One of the strengths of Historiana is its extensive collection of primary sources, under the title “Source collections”. These sources include historical documents, images, and artefacts that provide firsthand accounts of how past societies experienced and responded to climate-related challenges. Use primary sources from the Collection “Economy”, “Knowledge”, “Industrial Inventions”, “Changes Over Time: Water, Bridges, and Transport”, and “Energy in the Pre-Industrial World to create engaging activities where students analyze historical documents to understand the impact of climate events on agriculture, migration, and societal change. The e-activity builder can help the educator to design a suitable activity for his/her live or online class.

Incorporating Cross-Curricular Approaches

Based on the above, climate change is a multidisciplinary issue that intersects with science, geography, economics, and politics. Using Historiana’s “Source Collections” mentioned above, one can also create cross-curricular lessons that integrate history with other subjects. For instance, students could study the scientific principles behind climate change and then explore historical case studies to see how scientific advancements have influenced societal responses to environmental challenges. By taking a holistic approach, students can develop a well-rounded understanding of climate change.

Promoting Student Projects and Research

Encourage students to undertake research projects using Historiana’s resources. Assign topics related to historical climate events, policies, or figures who have influenced environmental movements. Students can use primary sources and historical data from Historiana to support their research and present their findings through essays, presentations, or multimedia projects. This hands-on approach not only deepens their understanding of climate change but also hones their research and analytical skills.

Learning Activities

Historiana’s “Learning Activities” can serve as a springboard for classroom discussions and debates about climate change. For example, the learning activity under the title “Should We Feel Anxious About Europe’s Energy Dependency?” provides a well-designed Lesson plan with suitable teaching material (5 historical examples) in order for students to acquire knowledge about the topic, think critically and discuss it.

The Industrial Revolution was a turning point in the relationship and the effect humanity had on the environment. In order for students to look at the impact of the Industrial Revolution on urbanisation, population, railways, communication, pollution and health between 1800-1900 and the impact, finally,  on their own lives, there is a suitable Learning Activity: “What Was the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on the Environment?

In the next two activities, “The History of Tea“ and “How Does Coffee Reveal the Contradictions of European Values?“ we see how the cultivation of two products of mass consumption, such as tea and coffee, can affect various aspects of human life, from the ideological and political to that of human rights and the exploitation of the environment.

As we educate the next generation about climate change, we are reminded of the timeless wisdom in Sophocles’ “Antigone“:

“Numberless are the world’s wonders, but none more wonderful than man.” (Sophocles, Antigone, lines 332-334).

This verse serves as a powerful reminder of humanity’s potential to both impact and protect our planet. Incorporating climate change education into history lessons is not just about understanding the past; it’s about preparing students for the future.  Embrace the resources available on Historiana to inspire the next generation of informed and proactive global citizens.

This article was written by Historiana Teaching and Learning Team Member Vassiliki Yiannou
History and Greek Language Teacher
MA in Educational Studies (Continuing Education)