I sat down at my desk to read the student evaluations for my undergraduate biology courses. “Please leave politics out of it. Not all Republicans deny science,” one student wrote. “I didn’t pay to take this class to hear him bash Republicans,” wrote another. I had received similar comments in previous years, implying that my lectures about Earth’s climate—and how it’s changing—were unfairly infused with politics. But they still made me think. How can I teach controversial topics such as climate change at a state university in Arkansas, where denial of climate change is rampant, without sounding partisan to some students?
I teach climate science in my biology classes because I think it’s important to lay out how the climate is changing before I talk about how those changes may impact plants and animals. Some of my students aren’t science majors, so it may be the only time they hear about climate science in a university lecture.
Recognizing that science doesn’t exist in a vacuum, I also try to make connections between the topics I’m teaching and the wider world. To do that, I set aside a few minutes at the beginning of lectures to talk about science in the news.