Children increasingly express feelings of anxiety and hopelessness about climate change. Recent research has shown that cultivating hope in climate change education can increase young people’s emotional resilience and environmental behavior. This study asks: How does middle school teachers’ engagement with climate change and climate change emotions impact students’ hope? And how do students’ climate anxiety, self-efficacy, and connection to nature affect their environmental behavior and climate change hope? Data were collected in October 2020 through an online survey of middle school students (n=96) in Ohio. On average, students experienced low climate anxiety, moderate constructive hope and low-moderate hope based in denial. Students perceived moderate support from their teachers for taking their negative emotions seriously, which was associated with decreased hope based in denial. Students with greater connection to nature, self-efficacy, and climate change anxiety experienced greater constructive hope. Additionally, students who had classes that gave pathways towards environmental behavior and teachers who positively framed climate change were more hopeful. Classroom experiences associated with greater constructive hope were also associated with greater environmental behavior. This study recommends teachers provide students with opportunities to connect with their climate change emotions, with nature, and with others who are taking environmental action.


Clayton, Susan


Environmental Studies


Educational Psychology | Environmental Studies | Outdoor Education


climate change education, climate psychology, climate change hope, middle school, environmental education, climate anxiety

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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