Climate change and CAPS

The CAPS+ approach, as explained by O’Donoghue (2013) in Framing Active Teaching and Learning in CAPS, is summarised as follows.

  • The curriculum stipulates minimum standards so we should always teach to CAPS+ Environment is already in and across the curriculum as topics that lend themselves to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

ESD is thus a matter of taking up and bringing out an environment and sustainability focus.

  • We need a whole school approach for relevance and to overcome the fragmented nature of a topic-centred curriculum.

So, what makes the Fundisa for Change programme different is that it takes the CAPS+ approach and focuses on enhancing three essential aspects of teaching: knowing your subject, improving your teaching practices and improving your assessment practices, as discussed in the previous section. Fundisa for Change (2013) discusses environmental and sustainability in different subjects. The CAPS curriculum is based on a set of essential principles. These principles inform all teaching and learning in the CAPS and have informed the design and development of all CAPS subjects (DBE, 2011). These principles are:

1. Social transformation
2. Active and critical learning
3. High knowledge and high skills
4. Progression
5. Human rights, inclusivity, environmental and social justice
6. Valuing indigenous knowledge systems, and
7. Credibility, quality and efficiency

Looking at the CAPS curriculum from human social-ecological contexts, the CAPS curriculum encourages teaching for the mediated acquisition of knowledge interactions like listening and reading-to-learn. The aim is to find out more about learning-by-doing and by trying out ideas and deliberating what is best. All these are assessed to foster and mediate social learning processes that shape the competence to live in a changing world (O’Donoghue, 2013).

Internationally, education for sustainability influences curriculum development at all levels and phases of the education system. In South Africa, we can see the influence of new thinking about the environment, society and economy in the CAPS curriculum (DBE, 2011). Each CAPS subject can engage with matters of concern such as climate change and other environmental topics.

Click below to open and read more about the Natural Science CAPS for Senior Phases.

Key concepts

A number of key ideas or concepts are especially important when teaching and learning about climate change. We have highlighted these here:

We usually refer to climate as the average of daily weather over about 30-50 years (Richardson et al., 2011). This includes fluctuations in, amongst other variables, daily temperature, rainfall and air pressure. To observe a change in climate requires several years of data observation, e.g. changes in rainfall over the last 30 years.

Climate change refers to long-term changes in climate. Climate change usually also refers to significant changes in long-term weather patterns in a specific region or across the whole Earth.

Climate variability refers to shorter-term changes in the climate compared with what is considered ‘normal’. Various atmospheric factors can influence climate in the short term.
It is important to distinguish between climate change and climate variability. It is not accurate to consider weather events like a storm or hurricane as ‘simply’ part of climate change before we have examined the long-term weather data for a region to see if this event is ‘normal’ or if there is a notable, new emerging trend. Remember that while it is possible for storms to become more intense because of climate change, this is not always the case – so we cannot assume this before examining the data.

The ability to adapt or change in response to changing climate.

Efforts to reduce, limit and respond to the causes of greenhouse gases and other factors ‘driving’ climate change.

Gases in the atmosphere absorb, reflect and re-radiate energy in the climate system.

The greenhouse effect is a natural process that has operated over several thousands of years. Humans are adding to or ‘enhancing’ this process, so it is important to try to distinguish between the way in which humans contribute to the greenhouse effect compared to the Earth’s natural processes.

These are the factors that change the energy balance of the Earth system, causing climate change and climate variability. They include both human and natural effects on the climate, and are also known as ‘forcing’ factors (e.g. solar forcing).

Anthropogenic means ‘caused by humans’; anthropogenic drivers are the human activities that are increasing climate change, e.g. land-use changes that influence the reflectivity (or albedo) of the Earth, and the addition of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels.