Open Spaces: Ohio: A Kid's-Eye View of Climate Change

Ohio: A Kid's-Eye View of Climate Change

A young girl sits smiling with a monarch butterfly on her nose

Connecting children with nature can help them learn about the effects of climate change on wildlife and their habitats. USFWS photo by Vicki Sherry. Download.

Multimedia iconPodcast: Author Georgia Parham speaks with USFWS staff Melanie Cheng about “The Climate Change Challenge” game designed to help teach children about climate impacts

Climate change is a complicated, complex issue. But for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff in Ohio, teaching kids about climate change can be as simple as child’s play.

On Earth Day 2011, the Service teamed up with the Columbus Zoo to give children a hands-on look at the impacts of a changing climate on wildlife.  As part of the activities, staff from the Service’s Reynoldsburg Ecological Services Field Office bring a kid’s-eye view to climate change with games and challenges.

Biologist Melanie Cota and assistant Melanie Cheng lead a game called "The Climate Challenge" to help teach children about the impacts on climate change on birds. The young players assume the role of birds faced with a variety of challenges expected to pose actual threats to birds as the climate changes:

The plants that you rely on for food bloomed and fell early because of a warmer spring. There is just barely enough food for you this year, is one of many scenarios faced by players. 

As they play, children see how climate change is affecting birds through food, habitat and migration, from rising sea levels in coastal nesting areas to early hatch of insects before migrating birds arrive. 

“Although this is meant to be a fun game, I think it sends an important message that we all need to pay attention to because we are already starting to see impacts from climate change on our trust resources,” Cheng said.

Cheng and Cota also show the children some easy ways to address climate change at home.  The “Bulbs for Birds” activity challenges participants to change at least one incandescent bulb and replace it with a compact fluorescent bulb.  Just that small change by each American household, the children are told, could save enough energy to power more than 2.5 million homes for a year.  Children sign a personal pledge and organizers keep a tally of the number of bulbs changed throughout the event.

Adults get involved, too. 

“As they help their kids take part in the activities, some of the parents learn about climate change too, like the effects of switching to fluorescent light bulbs,” Cheng said. 

Two boys holding a net sit by a lake next to a USFWS employee
Helping kids understand the natural environment and how climate change may impact us all is an important part of the Service’s climate change strategy. USFWS Photo by Ken Block.

Cota said the Bulbs for Birds activity is included in the game as a first step to get kids involved in “feeling like they can do something simple to make a difference. We also provide information on other ways we can all reduce our carbon footprint and help slow climate change.”

Cota said field office staff participated in a similar program last fall in partnership with the Ohio Wildlife Center near Columbus. These efforts support a larger goal outlined in the Service climate strategy to help Americans fully appreciate the significant implications of climate change on species and their habitats and engage them in seeking solutions.

Information on both “The Climate Change Game” and “Bulbs for Birds” can be found at the Environment for the America’s website: http://www.birdday.org/birdday/themes/2007/educational-materials

 

Climate Change Focus: Engagement

Author: Georgia Parham, USFWS

Contact: Chuck Traxler, 612-713-5313, Charles_traxler@fws.gov

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Last updated: June 21, 2012