Lesson 14: Becoming a climate solver

Understanding what is important to everyone helps us make choices about how to adapt to our changing climate in ways that suit the needs of our communities.

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Lesson 14: Becoming a climate solver

Written by Alex Fear, NIWA Communications Advisor, and Jordan Luttrell, NIWA Social Scientist 

On this page: 

Download a shorter version of this lesson in PowerPoint or as a PDF or continue below to see the lesson in full.

Understanding our choices will help us adapt to a changing climate 

Climate change is already affecting communities and livelihoods in New Zealand through increased temperatures, longer droughts and more intense storms. 

Understanding what is important to everyone helps us make choices about how to adapt to our changing climate in ways that suit the needs of our communities. 

The Rangi curriculum has introduced scientific and cultural concepts about weather, climate and climate change. Some of the activities in the lessons have asked students to take observations or measurements of what is happening in the world around them.  

This, as well as other classwork, will hopefully have motivated discussions about the natural environment and how a changing climate might affect the students and their community.  

Pathways thinking 

Pathways thinking is a framework being used throughout New Zealand and the world by businesses, communities and governments to guide their thinking about how we adapt to the challenges of climate change. This simplified version will allow your students to work through the same process and to become empowered by the knowledge that by planning and making changes we can live well in a changing world. 

The diagram below shows the steps involved in pathways thinking as well as an example a school might work through.  

1. What is happening?
  • What could happen at my place and in my community?
  • How vulnerable could I be to this?

Some days are already hot in our school playground – we burn our feet on the concrete and need to drink lots of water! And it’s likely to get even hotter in the future.

2. What is important to me?
  • What could be affected by climate change that I value or need?
  • How important are these to my whānau and community?

We love playing outside and want to be able to continue to do so, even on the hottest days. My whānau – especially my little sister and cousins, also like using the playground on the weekends.

3. What are my choices?
  • How can I adapt?
  • What are the potential solutions I can choose from?

There are lots of things we could do – move the playground into the shade, put up a shade sail, put in a drinking fountain, change the concrete surface to something that doesn’t get as hot, play inside on hot days.


4. What is my solution?
  • What can I do now?
  • What can I do later?
  • What can I do much later?
  • Choose my pathway

The school could fundraise for a shade sail, new drinking fountain and plant trees to make the area cooler now. And we could plan that when the playground needs upgrading in the future we choose materials that don’t get as hot in the sun and that we maximise the shade available.


5. How will I know it is working?
  • What changes should I look for to know my plan is working?

We’ll know it’s working if we can keep playing outside safely!

Activity – understanding what’s important to us all 

This final activity is a whole-class discussion support tool, to help students identify common themes in environmental stewardship and share those values with their classmates. Students identify and prioritise what they want to protect or change in their community where the climate is changing. 

Choose from the statements below that are relevant to your class. Print out each A4 sheet that is relevant and make a large poster by grouping together on a flipchart or pinboard. The class can then use sticky notes to indicate the 3 choices that are most important to them and why.  

Alternatively, they could choose an A4 page of what is most important to them and draw a picture.  

Another option is brainstorming some choices made by students, and then doing this same activity with the rest of the class voting for what they already do or will do in the future. 

You’ll likely come up with some questions that are more appropriate to your region/area, for example if you’re in a coastal location, so feel free to add or remove as needed. 

Summary of statements 

  • I ride my bike or scooter to school 
  • I use reusables, e.g. straws, cups 
  • I know which bins to put my recycling into 
  • I want to be able to swim in my river or the sea 
  • I know how to tell if it’s safe to swim in the river 
  • I want to be able to walk along the beach 
  • We collect rainwater at my house/school/marae 
  • I want to plant trees to make a habitat for wildlife 
  • I want to see lots of fish and insects in our streams 
  • I want to be able to go fishing, catch fish and collect shellfish 

Download the A4 pages to print here (including a blank one to customise). Once the activity is complete, talk about the results in a class discussion. 

Activity – what’s important for whānau

In this activity, climate solvers are looking into what’s important to individuals, whānau and communities. They are starting to consider what might be challenged or what opportunities might arise and what those around them view as priorities or what actions they might take.

Thinking about everything students have learned so far about the changing climate, they will ask their whānau these questions to see what they think is important to protect and what changes they might make.

At home, students can ask their whānau the questions on the worksheet and collect their responses.

Together you can use this information to help understand the values of others in your community. Understanding what is important to everyone helps us makes choices that are supported and suit the needs of our communities.

Download the worksheet here.

What next? 

The ideas and discussions around this activity could be used to form a plan for future environmental activities the class or school could undertake.  

Some ideas include:

  • Fundraising for something to improve your school environment. 
  • Planting some trees (you might be able to join with an organisation like Trees for survival).
  • Joining a beach clean-up or river restoration project (organisations like Sustainable Coastlines can help, or you can plan your own). 
  • Checking out a list of activities from the Department of Conservation
  • Finding out about becoming an Enviroschool

Climate change information for climate solvers

For more information about the science of climate change, visit our web pages aimed at school students. The things we can do to combat climate change, individually, and alongside our whānau, school and community, can and will make a difference.