Conversations across international divides: children learning through empathy about climate change

Satchwell, Candice orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8111-818X, Walley, Bob orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2712-1078, Dodding, Jacqueline orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1956-0086 and Lagi, Marily Daphine Audrey (2024) Conversations across international divides: children learning through empathy about climate change. Geographical Research . ISSN 1745-5863

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Primary school curricula often largely avoid the climate crisis, and teachers feel ill-equipped to teach it. In the secondary school curriculum, the climate crisis is generally addressed only in specific subjects such as science or geography. Our own and others’ research indicates that children are curious about climate change and become less anxious when they feel agentic in facing its effects. The challenges of everyday life for children in parts of the world severely affected by the rapidly changing climate are seldom included in educational contexts. This article reports on a project that linked a school in a UK town with a school on a Fijian island to explore a holistic approach to understanding the impacts of climate change. The children aged 9 to 11 built friendships across the globe through film messages, email, written letters, and drawings. As part of getting to know one another, the children asked and answered questions about their lives. Those questions and other creative activities revealed children’s interests and priorities and the extent of their local and global knowledge and enabled us to consider a personalised approach to climate justice. By co-creating and exchanging their stories the children could begin to understand the social and emotional impacts as well as the science of climate change. We discuss the role of empathy in children’s learning about climate change, and consider how connections across international divides can be facilitated.

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