The climate crisis throws three systems out of order: the human psychological system, the ecosystem and the capitalist system of land use.

Our land use system is, by far, easiest to change.

Which is opportune, because certain changes to urban design prompt psychological changes that can help people live more intelligently with less carbon.



My students figure this out through role-play and action. 


Model with flood wall

The main symptom for American kids of life with climate change will present as chronic stress. My curriculum guides young people to experience projects in which they learn to read the city around them for things that aggravate stress, identify ways to change these things, go through a role-play exercise to learn how to agree on courses of change amid competing claims, and design a change that takes into account political, fiscal and engineering constraints. 

Young people come out of the curriculum better able to read systems around them, negotiate for reform, and work for long-term change with a sense of agency. They finish with a presentation celebration, where they engage the real civic system to effect the change they seek.


This approach reframes the climate crisis as a problem of social stability rather than personal virtue. Whether you blame oil companies, international schemers or human nature, you are living with the rollicks of climate change. Tell kids this, and they get rather quickly to an insight: under intense uncertainty, we should make the world more like the one we'd seek in any climate. 

And the world they'd seek in any climate - like ours- provides lots of green space, and local contact, and easy paths to the water. It turns out to drive urban plans as resilient and low-carbon as any. And I propose that this literacy can boost kids'  confidence and patience as they navigate a shift to a low-carbon American economy. 





Ages – 6th-12th grades
Group size- 12-25 students
Subjects – Civics, ecology, service
Dosage – 14 one-hour sessions (flexible)
Common Core-aligned? –  Yes


Carbon analysis
Street investigation
Psychology games

Budget negotiations
Design iteration
Critical thinking
Writing memos
Land planning


Systems analysis
Handicapping for irrationality
Ecosystem analysis