Climate change changes students: one story

Bryan Alexander
3 min readSep 27, 2021

This week I’m revising my climate change book manuscript. Various chapters are in the hands of some thoughtful and generous readers, helping me hone the text. I’m about to smoosh all of the pieces into a single, staggering Word doc and fire it at my thoughtful and generous editor.

And yet the world keeps giving me more to write about on this topic! A few days ago the very fine Hechinger Report published a piece about the impact of the climate crisis on K-12 students. Caroline Preston focuses on American schools and kids hit by fire, heat, and floods. This obviously matters for our higher education purposes, as some of them will become traditional-age undergraduates, then adult learners.

Let me pull out some of the key themes, while you just go and read the article.

First, as climate damages grow in frequency and scope, larger numbers of students will come to colleges and universities with that experience. This will inform their academic experience, including knowledge of such events and potential trauma.

Second, threats to schools can increase the amount of delayed, rescheduled, relocated, and online learning students experience. This in turn can inform their expectations of post-secondary learning. For example,

Two schools that were devastated in the Camp Fire reopened for the first time this August. For years, staff have been working in what Allen-Clifford likened to “an educator MASH unit,” moving from one temporary facility to another as permanent structures slowly go up. The money and mental health support that flooded in after the fire is largely gone, but each Paradise school still employs two counselors, one specializing in trauma, she said.

Third, primary and secondary school systems have not adequately addressing the climate crisis, in Preston’s view:

Relatively few school boards and systems, for example, have agreed to sign climate resolutions promoted by the group Schools for Climate Action, which was founded by Park Guthrie, a sixth-grade teacher and climate activist. When Devin Del Palacio and others tried to persuade the National School Boards Association to adopt such a statement in 2019, the Florida delegation led an effort that stripped the words “climate change” from the resolution…

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Bryan Alexander

Futurist, speaker, writer, educator. Author of the FTTE report, UNIVERSITIES ON FIRE, and ACADEMIA NEXT. Creator of The Future Trends Forum.