Overcoming Challenges: A Collaborative Project Exploring Climate Migration

Lynne Wiesecke, English Language Learners, Albemarle Road Elementary School

Curriculum Unit (PDF)


Climate change is our reality. Around the world, the severity of natural disasters is being experienced on an unimaginable scale, causing widespread displacement of people. Around the world, impoverished peoples are most directly affected by climate change. Fragile populations, who have little to no ability to “bounce back” and recover from natural disasters when they occur, often inhabit the areas at most risk for extreme damage. This inability to rally and rebuild after a disaster is one of the main push factors for climate migration. The choice to seek a new life elsewhere is not a wish but more an essential need.
Many students in our schools have directly overcome difficult migration journeys and others have close family members who had to overcome such experiences. Whether these challenges are due to climate change, environmental damage, political strife, violence, economic collapse, or conversely a complex combination of all these issues, they all have certain habits of character, such as perseverance, collaboration, initiative, responsibility, integrity and empathy in common. This curriculum unit helps students review and embody positive habits of character as well as learn strategies and behaviors that help to overcome challenges at all levels.
This unit begins with an overview of how climatic and environmental conditions can push families to migrate. A shared reading experience is followed by a story of how a fictionalized character overcomes challenges and survives changing environmental conditions. Students use a digital mind map to visually illustrate how we overcome difficulties. Students are encouraged to explore their own challenges or their family’s migration history. It is our ability to meet and survive these challenges that makes us strong and resilient.