Climate in the Classroom: Hampton Falls, N.H.

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How is climate different from weather? What does climate change look like? How do scientists know the climate is changing? What are some downsides to climate change, and what are some potential positive impacts? What can YOU do to limit your impacts on climate change, and how can we prepare for the impacts?

Posters spelling out the word "CLIMATE" with descriptions of climage change impacts.

Above: Student posters spelling out "CLIMATE" and their thoughts about the impacts of climate change.

Sixth-grade students at Lincoln Akerman School in Hampton Falls, N.H., worked together to answer these questions through the Climate in the Classroom program offered by UNH Cooperative Extension and N.H. Sea Grant staff members Amanda Stone and Lisa Graichen. This was the second time the program has been done; the first was with fifth-graders from Oyster River Middle School in Durham in 2016, and we were able to incorporate feedback and lessons learned based on that first experience.

Students in classroom work through group project.

Above: Sixth-grade students from Lincoln Akerman work on a Climate in the Classroom project, let by N.H. Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension staff.

As part of this program, Stone and Graichen visited the class in March 2017 to give a presentation, which included asking the students quiz-style questions to review what they had learned about climate change in class, and then  an interactive activity to brainstorm positive and negative impacts of climate change. This built right in with the content the students were already learning with their teacher, Michael Queenan, as part of their science curriculum and also added local information and examples of adaptation efforts. The students then split into eight groups and spent the next two weeks doing research and collecting images to develop posters that answered questions about climate change.

In addition to the poster project, students completed a questionnaire activity as part of this program, asking their parents and guardians questions about their past experiences during storms, what they do to prepare, and whether they have noticed changes in weather over time. These results were compiled and sent back to Queenan to share with the students. Through the questionnaire, parents described their experiences during Hurricane Sandy, shared changes they’ve noticed in the weather over time, and identified their top concerns during floods and storms and the climate change impacts they’re most concerned about.

Many parents reported that they have already noticed changes, such as more frequent and intense storms, more power failures, higher tides, more ice storms, later winter storms, and greater precipitation. The top three climate change impacts the respondents were concerned about were: 1) sea-level rise, 2) increased likelihood of drought, and 3) more frequent storms. The top three actions they take to prepare for storms or floods were: 1) stock up on non-perishable foods, 2) stock up on water, and 3) charge their cell phones. This activity provided a great opportunity to start engaging the parents in conversations about climate change, and also to learn more about what their primary concerns are.

The program culminated in a community event on April 19, 2017, held at the school’s gymnasium. Students, their families, and other teachers and community members attended the event. The focus of this event was the students’ poster presentations to the audience of more than 50 people. Stone introduced the program, Queenan described how it fit into the class’s curriculum, and Graichen shared some examples of adaptation efforts underway in local communities. Participants also received handouts with local climate information and details about upcoming events hosted by the Seabrook-Hampton Estuary Alliance and opportunities to get involved with the Picture Post, led by the Coastal Research Volunteers Program.

Students talk about their poster on climate change impacts.

Above: Students had the opportunity to explain their posters to parents, teachers and others who attended the final presentation. Photo credit: Dave Kellam

The audience then split into eight groups and rotated through the posters, listening to the students’ presentations then asking questions and discussing what they were learning. The students did a fantastic job teaching the audience about what they’ve learned and practicing their public speaking skills. Their posters will be displayed at the Hampton Falls Library for others to see. At the end of this event, several parents commented on how much they enjoyed learning new information about climate change from the students.

Three students stand by their climate change poster.

Above: One team of students stands by their poster at the final presentation for Climate in the Classroom Program.

To learn more about the program, contact Lisa Graichen at Lisa.Graichen@unh.edu or 603-862-2356. Also, check out the N.H. Coastal Adaptation Workgroup for more information about local adaptation projects, resources, and outreach programs.

N.H. Sea Grant promotes the wise use, conservation and sustainable development of marine and coastal resources in the state, the region and beyond. Located at the University of New Hampshire, NHSG is part of a national network of programs located in our coastal and Great Lakes states as well as in Puerto Rico and Guam. 

Lisa Graichen