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10 – Teaching Climate Through Fiction, Data and Lived Experiences

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  • Miriam Bertram, Physical Sciences Division, First Year & Pre-Major Program, UW Bothell
  • Dana Campbell, Division of Biological Sciences, First Year & Pre-Major Program, UW Bothell


The urgent need for action on the world’s climate crisis motivated our design of a new course for first year students at UW Bothell, “Our future as told in ‘CliFi’ (Climate Fiction) and ‘CliSci’ (Climate Science).” Recognizing that effective human response to climate change requires all-hands on deck interdisciplinary collaboration, we bring together different ways of approaching our climate “emergency,” engaging students across a broad spectrum of academic interests and inspiring their participation in a problem that can otherwise be dismissed as unreal or hopeless.

Stories give students a perspective of the “enormity, urgency and indeterminacy” of climate change in a way that for some can be more compelling than learning through a purely scientific lens (Goodbody and Johns-Putra 2019). In the first half of our course, students learn about climate models and projections while contextualizing climate change with data relevant to their own lived experience (e.g. drought indices, weather station data). Then, we introduce students to the newly burgeoning literary mode of Climate Fiction (CliFi), where they explore the science and data behind the experiences of protagonists in futuristic short stories and longer novels. Throughout the course, students explore specific ways they can engage in solutions through educational or career pathways tailored to their interests, skills and personal choices. We measure progression of student learning and emotional response through assignments and a series of surveys. These data will inform our evaluation of the effectiveness of the curriculum for teaching climate and inspiring participation.

Some curricula used in this course were adapted from modules in the NSF InTeGrate project, and we plan to share our adaptations with the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Locally, the curriculum and teaching experiences will be discussed with participants of the 2019-2020 Learning Community at UW Bothell “Promoting the Curricular Integration of Climate Change Topics.”