Improve your teaching practices

In this session, we will look at different ways of teaching about Energy Exchange in the context of the CAPS Geography Curriculum. We present some examples of HOW you can teach learners about climate change. The aim is not to provide a pre-determined set of activities that you can use in your classroom. Instead, we will be working with you to help you integrate different methods of learning into your teaching practice, depending on your educational intent.


  • Engage learners in active meaning-making – in other words, there are no clear facts or right or wrong answers.

  • Promote research, debate, and exploration that learners need to engage with the information and make sense of it.

  • Promote learners’ activities that open up spaces for integrated learner activity that provide opportunities for both ‘deeper’ (e.g. values issues) learning, and more ‘surface’ or factual types of learning.

  • Making use of climate change resources (newspapers, journal articles, YouTube videos,  podcasts, etc) to illustrate the relationship between the biophysical and socio-economic drivers of climate change.

Useful starting points

It is often useful to look through a few newspapers or do an online search on current news stories involving climate change – this will provide you with a range of pictures and mini-stories to work with for a variety of activities. There are also a number of useful YouTube videos and podcasts sharing climate change stories that you can download. Alternatively, you can use a selection of case studies from some of the international reports.
Such resources can illustrate the relationship between the biophysical and socio-economic drivers of climate change. They can give you starting points for your classroom work, and create a link to the real world for your learners.

Also, watch Rob’s video about expanding conventional subject pedagogy for ESD

Strategies for improving pedagogy

Using the article “Arid Areas are Becoming Drier Still!” design a scenario planning activity. Think about the following when designing your activity:

  • You may want to include activities for reading and summarising the ‘story of climate change’ told by the two case studies. Asking the learners to identify the impacts of climate change described in the article will help them to make links between their existing knowledge of climate change and climate vulnerability.
  • Asking the learners whether any of the impacts described in the case studies are relevant to them will assist them in making connections to their own lives and potential vulnerability in their lives.
  • Asking learners to reflect on whether they have heard about similar issues within their communities will also help them to reflect on whether or not climate change is already affecting their lives.
  • Remember that scenario planning involves making predictions about how things could occur, based on the data available.

Design a ‘learning by doing’ activity

Read articles about climate heroes and heroines. After reading these stories, ask the learners to design a plan to improve their resilience to climate change. Think about the following when designing your activity:

  • Remember that you will need to assist learners to make a link between their vulnerabilities to climate change (that they identified as part of the scenario-planning activity), and how they can improve their resilience. Their plans should clearly reflect which vulnerabilities they are responding to and how their proposed project will make them or their community more resilient.
  • It is useful to remind learners to focus on practical things they can do (for example, practical activities that can improve their food security or water conservation).
  • It would be ideal to then work with learners to implement some of their projects within their communities.
  • Remember that both of these activities can be designed as both individual and group tasks.

Case studies can be used as starting points for a research project. Ideas for fieldwork include mapping the condition of learners’ natural environments (Are there already signs of drought or flooding? Are there things that would make them more vulnerable to weather extremes, like erosion or poor water conservation techniques? etc.) Things to remember:

  • Fieldwork needs to be focused and have a specific aim – what is the information the learners need to gather, and why is this information useful and relevant? What will it tell them about resilience or vulnerability?
  • How will learners use the information they have gathered to make sense of climate change and its impacts on their communities?

The same case studies (or articles and videos) can be used as a basis for role play. You could ask learners to pretend that they are reporters telling the story of what has happened. Ask learners to review the information within the case study, and develop a news report – either the case study or the stories of heroes and heroines can be used because good news is as important as being aware of the negative impacts of climate change. Role play allows learners to explore and put themselves in the shoes of other people from a variety of perspectives. Things to remember when designing role-play activities:

  • Asking learners to adapt the stories for their own communities, using the information they have collected in one of the previous activities will allow them to present their findings in a new way.
  • You will need to give learners a time limit for their plays.
  • Role play is often more successful as a group activity.
  • Remember to ask yourself what the purpose of the role play is – What do you want learners to learn about climate vulnerability and resilience? Will role play help you to teach this?

Examples of role play around vulnerability and resilience
A learner can take on the role of a TV newsreader commenting on the issue of desertification, for example. In this case, the newsreader may not be directly engaged with the details of the issue and is rather ‘communicating the issue’. Another learner could take on the role of a local member of the community living in a desertified area who then relates a day or week of the life of a community member to the class. Through this exercise differences in views and perspectives should emerge that can be expanded on for debate. The role of desertification as a ‘feedback’ into the Earth System can also be probed (for example, by examining the role of the albedo and the role of ‘changing of the surface of the Earth’ particularly over large spatial scales).
In the example above, a range of key issues in relation to climate change are being explored:
a) How land use management practices can alter the surface of the Earth which can then have feedback into the climate system.
b) Perspectives on what is driving or causing change – is it simple pressure on resources or are there other factors at play?
c) What interventions can be planned to make positive changes in this situation?
Another useful way of unpacking vulnerability and resilience issues is to design a debating activity. Learners would then argue for two sides of a story – for example, someone defending the development of a new factory, and another person claiming that it would make the community vulnerable to climate change.

  • Learners will need to do enough research so that they are debating based on facts, and not simply based on their feelings or opinions. This research can be done as a group task.
  • It is useful not to have too many people debating at once – small teams supporting each side of the debate are more practical than big teams or individuals. You will need to open up the discussion to the rest of the class after the initial debate so that they can contribute any views that were not represented.
  • A debate usually needs to be followed up with an activity that supports learners to make sense of and record their learning during the debate – this could be asking them to write a mini news report on the debate and the two sides of the argument.
  • You will need to prepare some prompting questions to keep the debate moving – these should be provocative – something that opens up the debate and discussion, and should move between the two (or more) sides of the conversation.
  • What caused the changes e.g. desertification?
  • What would it be like to live in such areas?
  • What interventions can be undertaken (e.g. development and mal-development, water, food provision etc.) (Grade 11, term 1 and term 3) to improve the situation and how could this be done?
  • Who or what is vulnerable to climate change in the picture you have (e.g. a scene in Africa showing the rural or urban context)?
  • Why are these groups vulnerable to climate change? What factors could be contributing to their vulnerability?
  • In what ways and through what activities are changes being made to the ecosystem that may then impact directly/or indirectly on the climate system? etc.
  • Are there any solutions to these problems? Give an example of a few for each possible scale of intervention e.g. local scale, national scale and international scale.
  • What social and economic factors are leading to environmental changes e.g. degradation in the urban environment?
  • What are some of the biophysical factors that could also be shaping change?
    What would it be like to live in such areas? What interventions can be undertaken (e.g. effective development, water, food provision etc. – give some specific examples to improve the situation and how could this be done – what will it take to get the action onto the ground, to the people and places where it will count?

Activity 2 Energy Resources