Kids are out here trying to change the world. Over the last year, we’ve seen international school strikes and mass mobilizations over climate change that have given me, at least, major hope. Now, a new study shows another way young people are continuing to clean up our mess: by convincing their parents to care about climate change.
The study, published in Nature Climate Change earlier this week, follows 238 families in North Carolina over two years. The researchers from North Carolina State University were trying to see whether intergenerational learning would occur if middle school teachers used a special climate change curricula that encouraged students to teach their parents; at some point, the kids needed to interview their parents about weather changes they’ve noticed. To see how the parents’ views changed as a result of their kids learning about, and eventually growing concerned with climate change, the researchers tracked eight classrooms that used the curriculum, and another seven that didn’t.
The results were pretty damn inspiring.
The children who used the special curriculum became more concerned than those in the control group, which wasn’t all that surprising. What was somewhat surprising is that this sentiment rubbed off on parents: On a 16-point scale, parents of the kids who had the special curriculum were, on average, over 4 points more concerned than the parents of those in the control group. The parents who were least concerned at the onset of the study saw the most growth in concern by the end of it. Dads were more receptive, and daughters were more effective at developing climate concern among their parents. The authors hypothesize this might be because the girls saw more concern at the end of the study or maybe because we ladies are just better communicators.
Interestingly enough, even the control group saw increases in their concern for climate change by the end of the study. The authors hypothesize that’s because climate change is seemingly hard to escape these days. That’s especially true for coastal North Carolina, which felt the impacts of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 firsthand. And North Carolina teachers are required to teach climate change, so these kids were likely still learning about it in school, just not with the specific curriculum to foster this intergenerational learning.
The scientists see climate curriculums like this a potential way to help build more concern among parents, especially those who are more conservative and might not initially care much about climate change. These sorts of programs don’t need to do anything extra to connect with parents; all they need are students who can help disseminate this information.
It’s yet another reminder that the youth are leading the climate movement. And it looks like ladies need to step to the front. Hell yeah.