Public Release: 

Climate change education partnership program is launched

Innovative education strategies advance climate science literacy

National Science Foundation

Introducing cutting-edge science topics can be a challenge, due to the constantly evolving nature of scientific research. But an innovative new science education program aims to meet that challenge when educating students, teachers, and the public about global climate change and its impacts.

Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced 15 awardees who will take the lead in planning collaborations across the United States as part of the Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) program. This program will connect climate scientists, experts in theories on how people learn science, and formal and informal education experts, with the goal of increasing public understanding of global climate change and preparing the next generation of scientists and educators.

Each partnership will work to identify and disseminate scientifically accurate educational resources. "It takes time for modern science to make it into textbooks," says Dave Campbell, a program director at NSF, "so teachers rely on websites and news clips in order to introduce these concepts into the classroom. ... Eventually, the materials developed through this program will help both classroom teachers and educators working in informal learning settings such as museums and parks, address students' questions about climate change from a solid scientific basis."

Climate science is complex and interdisciplinary, and therefore not an easy subject to teach. These partnerships will develop innovative approaches to learning about climate and new strategies to increase the adoption of effective educational resources within communities.

"The topic of climate change is not currently well-represented in national and state science education standards," according to Jill Karsten, a program director at NSF. Additionally, rather than advocating for specific behavior changes, the emphasis will be on understanding the science of climate change and the nature of its impacts. "We want to prepare individuals and their communities to make their own evidence-based decisions," Karsten noted.

The program is organized around both environmental themes and geographic regions, since climate change has varied effects depending on the part of the country. The lead primary investigators will issue sub-awards in order to increase the breadth of the partnerships to meet the educational needs of each environmental theme or geographic region.

Phase I of the program is a 2-year strategic planning period during which each partnership will conduct a thorough needs analysis and identify key stakeholders and effective educational resources that can help to address those needs. Full implementation of these plans in Phase II is expected to begin in fiscal year 2012. "These awards will also help us leverage other federal investments," says Karsten. Climate change education is also a priority of groups such as the National Park Service, NOAA and NASA. Karsten noted that the NSF partnerships will "establish additional connectivity and help scale up national implementation of climate change education."

The 15 CCEP awards for fiscal year 2010 are described below. The principal investigator (PI) is the lead researcher, but each project draws on a larger team of collaborating institutions and investigators that provide the expertise of learning scientists and education practitioners as well as climate scientists.

CCEP-I: MADE-CLEAR: Maryland Delaware Climate Change Education, Assessment, and Research

Award # 1043262
PI: Donald Boesch
Institution: University System of Maryland
Public Information Officer: Mike Lurie; mlurie@usmd.edu
The Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education, Assessment and Research (MADE-CLEAR) project is a natural outgrowth of Maryland's and Delaware's shared regional climate change and education environments. Its primary goal is to build the partnerships among these two States' research and teaching universities, public schools, federal agencies, and public and private sectors required to implement an innovative P-20 climate change curriculum, create new pathways for teacher education, and promote public understanding of climate change.

CCEP-I: Climate Science Meets Social Psychology and Strategic Communications: Applying proven learning and communications strategies to climate literacy in the San Diego Region

Award # 1043435
PI: Michel Boudrias
Institution: University of San Diego
Public Information Officer: Liz Harman; Harman@sandiego.edu
This project will focus on involving 'Key Influentials' (thought and opinion leaders, trend-setters) to increase awareness of climate science, mitigation, and adaptation issues among the non K-16 population in the San Diego region. The project targets a diverse audience, including local elected officials representing 18 cities and the County of San Diego, the Hispanic/Latino community, the real estate development community, faith-based communities, and tribal communities.

CCEP-I: Central Great Plains Climate Change Education Partnership

Award # 1043393
PI: Ben Champion
Institution: Kansas State University
Public Information Officer: Cheryl May; media@k-state.edu
The Central Great Plains (CGP) project will focus on developing effective programs to enhance climate science education for agricultural and rural communities in Kansas and the broader region. The K-State based CGP-CCEP will engage agricultural and rural community stakeholders in discussions of past climate variability, successful historical adaptations, and projected climate changes (including related impacts) that will lead to greater awareness, preparedness, and adaptive capacity. The audience targeted by this project includes farmers and ranchers, rural communities, and rural science teachers.

CCEP-I: Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network

Award # 1043284
PI: Alejandro Grajal
Institution: Chicago Zoological Society
Public Information Officer: Sondra Katzen; sondra.katzen@czs.org
The overarching purpose of the Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network is to develop and evaluate a new approach to climate change education that connects zoo visitors to polar animals currently endangered by climate change, leveraging the associative and affective pathways known to dominate decision-making. Utilizing a polar theme, the partnership brings together a strong multidisciplinary team that includes the Chicago Zoological Society of Brookfield, IL, leading a geographically distributed consortium of nine partners.

CCEP-I: Partnership for Education on Climate Change, Engineered Systems, and Society

Award # 1043289
PI: Rachelle Hollander
Institution: National Academy of Sciences
Public Information Officer: Maureen O'Leary; moleary@nas.edu
This award to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering focuses on the impacts of climate change for engineered systems. The goal is to catalyze and transform engineering education in K-12, science museums, and undergraduate engineering departments to prepare current and future engineers, policymakers, and the public to meet these challenges.

CCEP-I: Making the Global Local - Unusual Weather Events as Climate Change Educational Opportunities

Award # 1043235
PI: Edward Maibach
Institution: George Mason University
Public Information Officer: John Blacksten; jblacks1@gmu.edu
This project will focus on establishing a national network of on-air broadcast meteorologists, climate scientists, university research programs, and key climate and weather science organizations, to engage, train, and empower local broadcast meteorologists to educate and inform the American public about climate.

CCEP-I: Climate Change Science and Solutions: Creating innovative education tools for Native Americans and other rural communities on the Colorado Plateau

Award # 1043424
PI: Jane Marks
Institution: Northern Arizona University
Public Information Officer: Lindajean Western; lindajean.western@nau.edu
This partnership will develop and implement a middle school through high school climate change curriculum serving primarily Native American and rural students on the Colorado Plateau. The transformative theme of this project is that effective climate change education teaches the science, impacts, and solutions in culturally and regionally relevant ways. The curriculum will thus involve regional science, regional impacts, and regional solutions, all conveyed by regional storytellers using multiple modes of engaged pedagogy. This project will improve and develop already strong ties between Native American educators and community leaders and NAU scientists, learning experts, and practitioners.

CCEP-I: Climate Literacy Partnership in the Southeast (CLiPSE)

Award # 1043398
PI: Karen McNeal
Institution: Mississippi State University
Public Information Officer: Maridith Geuder; geuderm@ur.msstate.edu
CLiPSE is developing the foundation of a partnership for improving climate literacy in the Southeast U.S. (SE US). The target audience includes children and adults being reached through formal and informal learning environments. The project is enabling the regional population to make informed climate change-related decisions. The project is identifying and engaging strategically positioned organizations and individuals to develop a regional partnership with a shared vision and effective relationships and connections. It is identifying target groups; determining their understanding of climate change and its local impacts; cataloging related educational materials; creating workshops, providing training and professional development; and pilot-testing pre-existing key educational resources.

CCEP-I: Pacific Islands Climate Change Education Partnership

Award # 1043207
PI: Sharon Nelson-Barber
Institution: PREL and West Ed
Public Information Officer: PREL; www.prel.org
This partnership will serve the United States Affiliated Pacific Island Region (USAPI) and will focus on climate change impacts on the coastal ecosystems that are vital to the lives and cultures of those who live in the USAPI. The project targets educators, students, and community members in a region that is among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. The specific goals include strategically planning a culturally responsive adoption of high quality K-14 climate change educational programs and resources; involving local communities in developing K-14 climate education initiatives that build upon local knowledge, particularly indigenous ways of knowing; and collaborating with other CCEP projects as a member of an NSF-coordinated network that plays a national leadership role in climate change education.

CCEP-I: Polar Learning And Responding: POLAR Climate Partnership

Award # 1043271
PI: Stephanie Pfirman
Institution: Columbia University
Public Information Officer: Robert Hornsby; rh2239@columbia.edu
This project will focus on developing a Polar Learning and Responding (POLAR) Climate Partnership. Through this award, the POLAR partnership will research novel educational approaches using cutting-edge polar science to engage adult learners in advancing their understanding of climate change, weighing scientific evidence, and stimulating meaningful individual and collective responses. The audience targeted by this project includes adult learners and educational practitioners: college students, pre- and in-service teachers, informal education practitioners, others who create educational resources, and lifelong learners in the general public. Stakeholders and end users are young adults, future scientists, citizens, managers, and decision-makers including those in remote areas such as the Arctic.

CCEP-I: The Great Lakes Climate Change Science and Education Systemic Network (GLCCSESN)

Award # 1043278
PI: Sandra Rutherford
Institution: Eastern Michigan University
Public Information Officer: Geoff Larcom; glarcom@emich.edu
This project is focusing on climate change education in the Great Lakes region. The formal and informal education activities associated with the project are targeting an audience including STEM educators, pre-service teachers, public and business stakeholders, as well as the general public. The project is implementing an inventory of regional climate change research/education resources and creating an associated network map of existing interrelationships and partnerships. It is designing and implementing a virtual Great Lakes community platform that is linking project partners and collaborators. The PIs are developing a comprehensive planning document that is providing the partnership with realistic goals and objectives for future climate change education efforts in the region.

CCEP-I: Coastal Areas Climate Change Education (CACCE) Partnership

Award # 1043323
PI: Jeffrey Ryan
Institution: University of South Florida
Public Information Officer: Lara Wade; lwade@admin.usf.edu
This project will focus on the impacts of climate change in coastal areas, with sea level change as a core theme. The audience targeted by this project includes higher education and K-12 faculty, informal science educators, and college and K-12 students across the Florida and Caribbean region, with a view toward ultimately reaching the broader community. The project's specific goals include preparing a new generation of climate scientists, engineers, and technicians; preparing the region's citizens to understand global climate change and its real-time manifestations, and how to mitigate its impact; and producing new knowledge about climate change, about preparing students to work on climate-related problems, and about means for effectively engaging the broader community in understanding the issue.

CCEP-I: Urban Climate Education Partnership

Award # 1043371
PI: Steven Snyder
Institution: Franklin Institute Science Museum
Public information Officer: Kat Stein; kstein@fi.edu
Led by The Franklin Institute, the partners in this project will establish local networks within four urban centers--Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Queens, NY, and Washington, DC--forging links with informal and formal education partners, community groups, city government, and policy makers. Together this network will create and disseminate learner-focused climate education programs and resources for urban audiences. It is the vision of the UCEP to create an infrastructure of lasting collaborations to improve public understanding of and engagement with the science of climate change. The audiences targeted by this project are those within the urban environments of the core network cities.

CCEP-I: National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation

Award # 1043405
PI: William Spitzer
Institution: New England Aquarium Corporation
Public Information Officer: Tony LaCasse; tlacasse@neaq.org
This project will strengthen the capacity of aquariums and related Informal Science Education institutions (e.g., coastal national parks, nature centers, and national marine sanctuaries) throughout the U.S. to interpret climate change and its impacts on coastal zones and marine life. Working with professional and volunteer aquarium interpreters and educators the partnership will provide training, tools, and support to help aquarium professionals interpret climate change for their visitors, making connections with collection animals. The initiative will serve not only the partner institutions, but also an expanding network of aquariums and informal science education institutions interested in bringing important messages about climate change and the ocean to their visitors.

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