PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — CBS News and KDKA-TV are committed to covering stories about the Earth and our environment all year long, but especially this week as we lead up to Earth Day tomorrow.
All this week on KDKA News at 5 p.m., we're taking a look at our changing climate and the impact it's having on all of us in a series called Earth 365.
In Part 4 of our series, we're taking a look at how children are learning about the environment.
As our climate is changing, so is the curriculum taught in schools. One of the first lessons to learn is the difference between weather and climate. Weather is what we see day to day, while climate is the change over a long period of time.
Kelly Beegle is the fourth-grade social studies and science teacher at Central Elementary School in Beaver Falls. She said the biggest change in teaching about climate today is in the textbooks.
"Our climate in the old books was definitely more focused around the definitions, like what type of climates there were. Now, the newer books are focusing on how it's going to affect our future," Beegle said.
But Beegle is taking environmental education beyond the textbooks. She says she wanted her students to know about the resources available to them and how to use them more wisely.
So, she bought a mini-greenhouse for her classroom with a grant from the Educational Foundation of America, and she's now teaching the students how to grow their own garden. It is a foreign concept for most children these days.
"The kids are growing their own plants from seeds so they can see how it starts as a seed and ends up as a plant or ends up as fruits and vegetables. We're hoping to pair with local businesses or even our local cafeteria to really work with the kids so they can see where their food comes from," said Beegle.
The students planted seeds in milk cartons recycled from their lunch trays and they're watching the plants grow in the classroom.
Beegle also says they've been very fortunate this year with a first-time visit from the Mobile Agriculture Science Education Lab, which talked to the students about some of the most important resources.
"It taught them a lot about soybeans, especially, because that's a really well-known plant grown here in Pennsylvania," Beegle said. "So, the soybeans were a huge thing. We actually made crayons out of the soybeans."
In addition to learning how to grow their own food, the students are also learning about ways to conserve energy. One way they do that is by going on field trips where they walk to their destination instead of taking a bus.
And the class has even adopted a cow that they get to check up on through video to help them learn more about animals and their role in our environment.
Her students are clearly learning a lot, but Beegle says it's really about showing them ways they can continue to "be the change" years down the road.
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