AAAS Diary: Climate Change for Kids

Reporter Graeme Stemp-Morlock blogs from the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.

One of science’s key obligations is to communicate findings to the public, and there is no more receptive audience than children.  Children have an insatiable curiosity, and science is one of the surest ways to help them discover answers to their questions.

So, it makes perfect sense that the AAAS encourage families and young children to come to the meeting on the weekend.  Gaggles of children drag their parents to the exhibit hall that has been transformed into an interactive science display area with numerous presentations.

By far, one of the best presentations was Sunday afternoon’s discussion of climate change by James Callahan and

The exuberant presenter got kids to think not only about climate change and global warming, but atmospheric science, climate models, basic chemistry, the scientific method, and planetary exploration.  Not bad for a 20 minutes presentation to a group of kids under 10 years old.

“Global warming is a good educational topic,” said Callahan.  “It doesn’t have to be gloomy and you can teach kids lots of different lessons; plus you can make it fun and accessible.”

His presentation saw young children hypothesize what temperature different planets were depending on their distance from the sun and the composition of their atmosphere.  Kids crowded around the stage where a small heat lamp was set up to direct heat at the planets all lined up so they could see how hot each was depending on distance.  And, to explain atmosphere they handed out water bottles filled with different colored pebbles, each color representing a different gas.

One of the most unique parts of the presentation was talking about greenhouse gases’ positive aspects.  Often we think of greenhouse gases as purely destructive, but without them our planet would be a giant ice cube.  So, it’s all about balance, or as Goldilocks might say “not too hot, not too cold, but just right.”

-Graeme Stemp-Morlock