learning competencies

Using PEEL Lesson Plans - 3 Phases of Learning

PEEL includes 11 lesson plans, including activities and other and teaching resources. Lessons are typically organized in a basic lesson and enhanced version. Typically, younger students will benefit from the basic lesson, older students from the enhanced information, however PEEL encourages teachers to use their discretion. Particularly if the topic is new to students, the basic lesson may be the most appropriate at any age. The lesson plans incorporate input and review from experts in each applicable subject area, as well as feedback from educators who have presented these lessons before.

PEEL Phases

PEEL is intended to be phased learning through each grade, in accordance with the research on effective education in this area. Each grade is encouraged to integrate all phases over the course of their PEEL project lessons, so that students have the chance to more fully understand not only the content but also the meaning of the topic.

The first 8 lessons are part of Phase 1: Exploration of Energy and Environment in Alberta. This phase is content based and provides the foundational learning for students to consider acting upon. Phase 2 and 3 move students through to an action plan. Research has proven that student action is critical to creating student empowerment and preventing students from feeling overwhelmed and defeated when addressing the topic of climate change. Teachers are encouraged to help students create an action plan that is as specific to their context as possible and reinforces the concept of Circle of Influence used throughout these lessons.

Lesson plans are intended to equip and enable teachers to adapt PEEL for their classroom. The lessons provided will help teachers integrate PEEL through many aspects of their teaching, or focus during specific times of year or within specific subjects. PEEL instructors are available to provide support to teachers, answering questions and providing feedback both online, by phone, and in person.

Lessons 1 - 11

Lesson 1 is the critical lesson for establishing the vocabulary and concepts important to all subsequent learning. It is also recommended that educators complete, or ensure their students are familiar with the concepts of sustainability, conservation, and energy efficiency which are introduced in Lessons 2-4.

Lessons 5-8 provide more detailed information on specific renewable energy technologies. We encourage educators to use their discretion with these lessons. For teachers who wish to incorporate local experts into their PEEL program, these lessons create excellent opportunities to do so. There are many industry professionals and related organizations throughout the province who have experience with the technologies studied in these lessons.

Lessons 9-10 are intended to help teachers lead students through an action-oriented project, allowing students to use their knowledge to discover, influence, and reflect on their learning. Lesson 11 includes a celebration of student growth, a vital component in affirming students and maintaining their motivation for future action.


Experts in Your Classroom

Among the most important people in a school are the people who make up the larger school community. This includes parents, volunteers, and guests in the classroom. Experts - those people who hold an in-depth knowledge of a certain topic - are in important resource for every classroom, particularly when addressing broad subjects such as climate change science.

The PEEL project has relied heavily on the innovative and creative thinking skills of experts in the development of each lesson plan provided and within the teacher training sessions. You have been provided with content that has been developed and approved by leading industry professionals.

The PEEL project encourages teachers to consider inviting other experts into their classroom to present on a topic related climate change. When experts are willing to join a cohort of students in the exploration of a topic, students benefit in many ways:

  •  It brings authenticity to the work
  •  It contextualizes the work in a way that reveals to/reminds students that what we learn about in school does not only exist in the classroom
  •  It validates and builds confidence in their own voice
  •  It develops skills in receiving data from a primary source
  • Experts help develop and increase academic language
  • It provides mentors and hero's in particular fields of study (ex: female scientists, innovative careers, etc.)
  •  It connects students to their community
  • It expands student understanding and awareness of 21st Century careers and areas of study
  • It gives students space to ask particular questions to someone who actually knows what they're talking about
  •  It gives students an avenue for discussing multiple perspectives and point of view

Teachers also benefit from experts in the classroom. Teachers gain authenticity when experts support classroom content, experts provide opportunity to discuss perspective and point of view and for teachers to observe and assess student learning while the expert guides the lesson.

Who exactly are these experts?

Experts don't have to be any type of person in particular, other than someone who holds an in-depth knowledge of a particular topic.  Often, your parent/grand-parent population will have much to contribute. The PEEL project encourages you to draw experts from your local area.  Local experts often have a more direct connection with students and can be more easily incorporated into action projects with your students. As well, experts from near to your school help to reduce the cost to have the expert in your classroom as well as reducing emissions created in getting the expert to your classroom. 

Examples of possible experts:

·       Joe from the local Newspaper is invited to come and discuss what it means to have a persuasive voice in writing and how to use your voice to educate and persuade others

·       Samara from a local solar energy business comes to talk about the importance of practicing what you preach as a business model that produces profit and encourages social change

·       Jessi from an engineering firm shares his research on current Carbon Capture and Storage research and practices. Students use this information to write their government about this new technology.

·       Kim from the local college comes in to talk about rain water harvesting and the new technology emerging around residential water use

·       Juan from the local community garden invites students to come visit the garden and grow their appreciation for nature as well as their knowledge of food production



A few tips on incorporating experts

Prepare your students for their visit ahead of time. Get a sense of what students already know regarding the topic. Cover vocabulary, discuss their job, do a recent search of current events to help students generate a question/comment list before the presenter/expert visits.

 Have a student or two meet them at the office with a warm welcome, an offer to help carry equipment, and show them the way to the classroom.

Select a student to thank the presenter at the end of your time together before the presenter even arrives. This will give students a chance to craft a thoughtful thank you.

 Provide an introduction for the presenter and consider writing their name on the board. Consider having a student provide a couple sentences about what they are learning in the PEEL project to help situate their learning for the expert

Have students keep a PEEL log book. They can use this book to organize their thinking around topics, experts, interesting facts or learning, and questions that arise during a presentation.

PEEL Project staff are happy to assist you in connecting with renewable energy experts who are willing to come into your classroom and present. Please email:info@teachpeel.ca for information.

Climate Conversations in your Classroom

Exploring and framing topics thoughtfully and intentionally is critical to the learning experience. The level of life-long engagement with climate change that we hope students will carry with them is directly affected by the conversations they have about climate change.  Conversations in your classroom can help students develop the soft skills they need to effectively engage the topic over their lifetime.

Recognizing this, the PEEL Project has divided learner objectives and lessons into two “types” of learning: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills include information that is highly cognitive and rational, such as facts, data, and vocabulary. Soft skills, offer tools for interpretation and make sense of learning and feelings at a developmentally appropriate level.

In the PEEL project, soft skills can bracket a lesson that focuses more on difficult content. For example, when students learn that there is limited fresh water on our planet and that glaciers and ice are melting more quickly due to climate change, it can be challenging for students to internalize or digest this information. However, talking about emotions that arise in response to the information models for students that it is ok to feel uncomfortable with environmental realities. This is one way to soften the impact of learning of about climate change and give permission for students to feel what they need to in response to these global realities.

Another option might be to follow a lesson with an opportunity for students to express/discuss/articulate/artistically demonstrate how this reality makes them feel. Of course, even being aware of one’s feelings requires learning, so soft skills (feeling, identifying emotions, regulating emotions, talking about, writing about, etc.) take time to develop and normalize. Learning to recognize one's emotions while living with discomfort is a critical component of exploring climate change in a productive and healthy manner.

Debriefing is also an important part of classroom routines. Making time for discussion and space for students to sit with their learning in meaningful and mindful ways is important for all ages. This can be especially useful after an expert presents new learning or a particularly inspiring or heavy concept is explored. Debriefing can help students of all ages make the critical move information to personal action over the course of their learning about climate change.  

Below are samples of debriefing conversation starters.

Ideas for Starting a Debrief Conversation

  • "Hearing about _______________ made me wonder_______________"
  • "When I picture_____________, I imagine__________________"
  •  “This concept makes me feel __________ “
  •  “One person who I think really needs to learn about this concept is _________ because _________ “
  • “One thing I can do to improve awareness is….”
  • “One thing I can do to influence my circle of influence is….”
  • “One thing I am going to do differently is….”
  • “Now I know…..”
  • “This makes me wonder….”
  • "I can't help but wonder..."
  •  "If I could change one think, I would..."
  • "I'm [upset/angry/sad/interested/excited/_____] about this learning because....."
  •   "I feel hopeful about this because...."

Other conversation prompts:

  •  “Is anyone feeling a little unsettled or uncomfortable with some of the information you just heard/read? [pause]. Does anyone want to share what they think they’re feeling or what they feel uncomfortable with?” (discussion, written response, small group)
  • “Who is feeling inspired by our learning today? If there were no limits, what would you do with your inspiration?”
  • “What kinds of questions does this learning raise in you?
  • "What does this learning make you wonder about?”

Climate Change: Pedagogical & Process Research

"Learning about global problems is not only a cognitive endeavor but also an emotional experience" (Maria Ojala, 2012).  

When exploring topics related to Climate Change, it is important to keep the learner at the centre of this learning. The age and stage of the learner should inform the topics being presented, key concepts delivery and exploration, and the type of action opportunities available in response to the issues. PEEL lesson plans are provided to assist educators in presenting appropriate content to their students as well as providing opportunity for each educator to adapt the content to their specific classroom.

PEEL encourages educators to consider these ten points as a helpful guide in navigating your approach to climate change education. 

  1. Enter your student's shoes and consider their perspectives.
  2. Keep learning personal, close by, and at a level they can digest instead of imparting "adult information" onto them. Remember, environmental issues can be highly abstract.
  3. Make space for emotions in your classroom and identify various ways that your students can hold and deal with these emotions.
  4. Consider your own self-talk around climate change. Identify if it is the only way to think about these issues?
  5. Be a bridge for students by interpreting global issues into local, action focused learning.
  6. Provide opportunities for students to apply their learning to projects that are meaningful and influential.
  7. Avoid too much, too soon. Elementary students should stick within the sphere of their own experiences and cognitive abilities. Intermediate levels can begin exploring their wider world and its problems so long as they have meaningful opportunities to engage in projects that promote active citizenship.[1]
  8. Teach hope and be hopeful! Paint a green and healthy vision of the future. Don't approach climate change from a "fear" narrative.
  9. Teach balance of the triple bottom line: people, environment, economy, not just the environment.
  10. Take your students outside to natural spaces. "If we want children to flourish," David Sobel (1996) notes, "to become truly empowered, then let us allow them a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it."[2]

[1] Blanchet – Cohen, 2008; Chawla & Flanders Cushing, 2007

[2] Sobel, David (1996). Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart of Nature Education. Great Barrington, MA. The Orion Society.


21 Century Learning Competencies

Leading up to 2011, the Alberta Government; in conjunction with several organizations and initiatives, connected with Albertans about the kind of education students will need for the 21st century. From these conversations arose the Framework for Student Learning, which "outlines the relationships among literacy, numeracy, competencies and subject/discipline areas essential for students to become engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit" (Alberta Education, September 21, 2016). 

Alberta Education states the Mission of this work is to: "Collaborate to inspire every student to engage in high quality, inclusive learning opportunities needed to develop competencies required to contribute to an enriched society and a sustainable economy... The vision is based on the values of opportunity, fairness, citizenship, choice, diversity and excellence."

Many school boards across Alberta hvae crafted their own version of the Alberta Education competencies, with a focus on engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of it. Please refer to your school board's website for their version of the 21 Century Competencies educators are expected to develop. The PEEL program builds on these values, visioin and 21 Century skills as a lens for learning, action and collaboration.