students working together on a project

Climate Change Lesson Plans Grade 6

By: Effie Albitz

Mar 16, 2023 | 11 minute read

Whether you’re a teacher who has never taught climate change before or you’re looking for some new ideas to grow your confidence, these climate change lesson plans for grade 6 are here to help! We know how precious teachers’ time is, so these lessons include everything you’ll need to jump right in with minimal prep. And no matter the subject, your 6th graders will be exploring climate change through engaging and collaborative activities that will have them hooked!

Wangari Maathai & Deforestation

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Social Studies, Geography

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students learn about the African environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement — an organization that addresses deforestation as a significant contributor to climate change — and actively empowers women, reduces poverty, and promotes peace. Students will explore the Global Forest Watch Interactive Map, watch a video about Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement, and write their own pledge to help the environment.

The interactive map is packed with data for students to explore, fostering both their map reading and data interpretation skills. And by ending with a pledge, students will be inspired to take action and do their part to help stop climate change. This is a great lesson for grade 6 social studies classes and it connects to many different topics including map reading, deforestation, and activism. The slides include scaffolding to support learners of varying ability levels, such as guiding questions, sentence stems, and examples. Also, teachers can use the additional resources linked throughout the slides to expand learning for advanced students.

To Farm or Not to Farm

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, Economics, English Language Arts

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students play the role of farmers making difficult decisions about their farms in order to manage the risk of droughts. Because of climate change, droughts are occurring with increased frequency and severity, so farmers have to balance this risk with economic factors like seed costs and insurance. Students will work to keep their farms in business through both good years and drought years by making smart decisions about how to spend their money and what risks to take.

Your 6th graders will love competing with their classmates to see whose farm will last the longest! Plus, teachers will be able to lead students in engaging conversations about their decision-making process. Most importantly, students will get a taste of how difficult climate change is on farmers who rely on stable climates to grow their crops. There are two options for the activity, one that includes a math component and one that does not. For students who may need additional support, use the first version of the activity and group students into teams so they can help each other through the process. For students who need an extra challenge, use the second version of the activity where they will track their purchases and earnings using actual dollar amounts. If you’re using this resource in a social studies or economics class, focus more on the financial aspects like insurance. However, if this is being used in a science class, focus more on climate variability and droughts.

Electric Bikes or Electric Cars?

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Social Studies, Economics, Computer Science & Design Thinking, Career Readiness, Life Literacies, and Key Skills

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students explore the benefits and drawbacks of electric bikes and electric cars by conducting their own research. Then, students create a video promoting one of the modes of transportation as a climate change solution. Students will learn that while electric cars and bikes can help reduce emissions compared to traditional gasoline-powered cars, they are not emission-free. Electric vehicles are an important part of solving climate change, but they aren’t the exclusive solution!

Students get to choose which topics and questions to explore, which will help get them more engaged in the lesson. Also, students get to be creative and express themselves in their videos. To make things easier for teachers, there is a rubric for the videos, which can be used as an assessment. Students who may need additional support can complete the research and create the video with a partner. Advanced students can be challenged to do their own research using just the guiding questions instead of the provided links. Students will get the most out of this lesson if they are already familiar with climate change, so consider playing a video as a refresher before starting the lesson.

Facts and Opinions

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: English Language Arts

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

Your 6th graders will put their critical thinking skills to work in this lesson by separating climate change facts from opinions. The lesson starts with students creating definitions for fact and opinion and applying their definitions to some examples. Next, students watch videos about three climate change-related topics and answer questions on their student documents. The lesson ends with a short project where students write an opinion they have about climate change and research facts to support it.

Students are sure to be engaged in this lesson because of all the opportunities for discussion and expressing their own opinions. The supporting materials for this lesson are awesome! The teacher slideshow will keep the lesson running smoothly and on track, and the student document includes a great graphic organizer for students to use while watching the videos. Also, teachers can easily use the project as an assessment with the provided rubric.

This lesson assumes students know how to identify credible sources, which still might be tricky for many 6th graders. For students who may need additional support, teachers can complete a sample project as a class before students work in small groups to research their own opinions. For more advanced students, teachers can expand the project by having them write about multiple opinions or increasing the number of supporting facts required.

The Biosphere

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Social Studies, History, English Language Arts, Health, Social-Emotional Learning

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students explore how humans impact the biosphere and consider what we can do differently to protect the future of our species and the planet. The lesson describes how population growth, the Industrial Revolution, and globalization have accelerated human impacts on the environment and climate. The lesson also includes a short section about the potential to colonize Mars in the future as a possible solution to overpopulation and environmental destruction. Students construct their understanding by watching and discussing three videos, completing a card sorting activity, and creating a presentation about their vision for the future.

This is a great resource to get students thinking about the future and empower them to be a part of the climate change solution. The lesson includes discussion questions to accompany each video and activity, which will keep students engaged and collaborating. Teachers can facilitate the lesson with ease because of the detailed instructions and accompanying student handouts. 

This resource is a great fit for social studies classes that are learning about the Industrial Revolution, globalization, population growth, or country development. If students need additional support, teachers can slow the lesson down and spend more time discussing the key ideas. Advanced students can be challenged to research the “Thinking Conceptually” prompts and debate or discuss their findings with their peers. 

Cambio Climático y el Hogar

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: World Languages, Spanish

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

In this Spanish language lesson, students learn about sources of energy, ways we use energy in our homes, and how we can reduce household energy use. Students make comparisons between the United States and Chile to explore how cultural differences impact energy use. The lesson includes a variety of different activities, such as videos, website exploration, partner discussions, card games, and written reflections. Students will be left with ideas for how they can reduce their own household energy consumption and therefore reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. These small changes can add up to big results in our fight against climate change!

This detailed lesson plan provides engaging slides, an awesome student handout with graphic organizers for written work, and a Quizlet with all key vocabulary from the lesson. Because there are a variety of activities, students are able to practice numerous skills including listening, speaking, and writing. This is an ideal lesson for 6th grade Spanish language teachers, as well as teachers in a dual language or immersion setting.

The lesson is lengthy, and likely will need to be spread over multiple days. Alternatively, teachers can pick and choose which of the many activities to use if time is limited. Stronger Spanish speakers can be challenged to use the Spanish language version of the EPA website, while beginner Spanish speakers may need to use the English version. Also, for beginner-level Spanish classes, teachers can pause the videos frequently to ensure student understanding, as well as go through the different linked resources together as a class instead of independently. 

Non-Dairy the Future?

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th

Subjects: Science, Computer Science & Design Thinking

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

In this climate change lesson, 6th graders will explore the nutritional and environmental benefits and drawbacks of non-dairy alternatives compared to traditional dairy milk. Students will learn that all non-dairy milk options are better for the environment than cow’s milk. Students will also learn about a variety of new technologies that are helping improve non-dairy options to make them more nutritious and tastier.

Through this lesson, students are able to see how choosing a type of milk — a seemingly small, everyday choice — is connected to global issues like the dairy industry and climate change. Students are empowered to come to their own conclusions about milk alternatives by digging into the data. The lesson ends with students taking real action by creating a flier to advocate for non-dairy options in their cafeteria.

Some students may need additional support when interpreting the graphs and data. These students may benefit from going through the data as a class and discussing conclusions together. Advanced students can be challenged to use the science article to collect more data in addition to the Food Data Central link. Teachers also have the flexibility to allow students to work independently, with a partner, or in small groups — depending on the needs of their classroom.

Fold and Forecast

Grade: 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects: Science, Earth and Space Sciences, Math

Resource Type: Lesson Plan

This hands-on lesson simplifies the simulation of weather forecasting and modeling by using paper airplanes. Students will use fractions and percentages to make predictions based on where their paper airplane lands in a variety of experiments. This lesson also discusses the butterfly effect and the climate pattern ENSO. Forecasting models are key to predicting the future of climate change, making them a great topic to include in your 6th grade climate change lesson plans!

Your 6th graders will love getting to build and throw their paper airplanes in this lesson. Plus, they have the chance to practice important skills like data collection, data analysis, and drawing conclusions from data. There are slides provided for teachers and a detailed instruction video that includes how to build a paper airplane if students are unfamiliar with the steps. This is an excellent lesson for any 6th grade science or math classroom and could even make for a great interdisciplinary project between the two subjects. In math classes, it could serve as a hands-on way to learn about fractions, percentages, and probability. If students need additional support with fractions and percentages, teachers can do a few examples as a class and have students work in pairs to help each other. In science classes, teachers can challenge advanced students to research how climate models are used to study climate change.

These climate change lesson plans cover a wide range of topics, making it easy to find one that can connect to your class no matter the subject. The variety of activities and thought-provoking themes are bound to be memorable and engaging in any grade 6 classroom. Every lesson includes detailed plans and all necessary supporting materials — slides and student handouts — to make implementation as smooth as possible.

About the Author

Effie has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in teaching instruction. She formerly taught 8th grade Earth science in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She now lives in Athens, Greece where she teaches English and creates content for SubjectToClimate.