Giving Kids a Voice … and a Role: ‘How We Know What We Know’

“A hopeful book in a discouraging time.”

It’s how Antioch University Professor David Sobel characterizes “How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming,” co-authored by Lynne Cherry and Gary Braasch.

“This is not a scary book,” the front flap of the book jacket reinforces.

It’s the kind of velvet glove approach Cherry and Braasch take in walking 10- to 14-year olds through the ins and outs of a changing climate … and their roles in helping address the attendant challenges.

They show in “How We Know What We Know” that they know not only the subject but also how to communicate it to that age group, in whose good hands the climate change issues soon will rest.

They don’t pull punches on the seriousness of the climate change challenges as they see them and as some of the nation’s leading scientists and scientific organizations, their sources, describe them. But they deliver the strong medicine with a hopeful tone designed to enlist, and not repel, a youthful and impressionable audience.

Coming Soon to a Theater Near You?

Cherry and photojournalist Braasch, working in cooperation with the National Wildlife Federation, now are raising money, and apparently succeeding, for a full-length theatrical release film “to give kids a voice,” as Cherry put it in an April 17 phone interview. She said the effort is still in the early stages, but with more than $100,000 raised in just the past few weeks, and with a contract signing imminent with a prominent film producer, she exudes hopefulness and enthusiasm.

“The scientists in this book are detectives unraveling mysteries about our changing climate,” they write in an opening introduction. From “What is Science? Hypotheses, Theories, Facts, and Beliefs” to “A Scientist Speaks Out” (about NASA’s James Hansen) and “The Role of Government and You – Success Stories,” they sustain the message through 28 consecutive chapters, each on a two-page 22″ by 9″ spread. They tell their story through concise wording and through Braasch’s riveting photography and practical graphics. “How We Know What We Know” amounts to something of a youth counterpart to Braasch’s 2007 book “Earth Under Fire: How Global Warming is Changing the World” (see Forum Forum article).

Each two-page spread includes three or four images and graphics, often involving youths in the age group the book targets.

As a companion to the 66-page hardback (ISBN: 978-1-58469-103-7) listed for $17.95 ($12.21 on Amazon.com), the publisher, Dawn Publications of Nevada City, Ca., has a 48-page paperback teacher’s guide (ISBN: 978-1-58469-105-1) written by Carol L. Malnor, selling for $8.95.

For those teachers concerned that their resource options for their climate change classes are limited to materials emanating from partisan interests, Cherry’s and Braasch’s “How We Know What We Know” provides a practical and authoritative alternative. It’s one their students can not only learn from but also enjoy, taking in both the joys of scientific discovery and the challenges their own generation and their kids and grand kids will need to grapple with.

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is editor of Yale Climate Connections. (E-mail: bud@yaleclimateconnections.org).
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