Environmental Literacy for Alaskan Climate Stewards (ELACS)
The Environmental Literacy for Alaska Climate Stewards (ELACS) project involves K-12 Alaskan students from the Chugach School District and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in studies and activities to increase environmental and climate literacy and ultimately community resilience. Throughout the four-year project, students and teachers will work with scientists and experts from their communities, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Local Environmental Observer Network, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Build A Buoy Project, and Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Earth Program. Rural Alaskan students live in some of the most vulnerable regions of the planet, areas that are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the nation, bringing widespread impacts. Sea ice is rapidly receding, and glaciers are shrinking. Thawing permafrost is leading to more wildfire and affecting infrastructure and wildlife habitat. Rising ocean temperatures and acidification will alter valuable marine fisheries. The objectives of the Environmental Literacy for Alaskan Climate Stewards project are to provide rural, K-12 Alaska students and teachers in Alaskan Native villages with knowledge and opportunities that will help build understanding of local climate change impacts and to increase overall climate literacy and contribute to community resilience. Students and teachers will participate in first-hand experiences of environmental monitoring, data sampling through a locally relevant citizen science project, and by building ocean observation systems. The project has four main action and outcome areas: Professional development and monthly ongoing project support – including school-site delivery and workshops at the NOAA Lab facilities in Kachemak Bay, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Anchorage. Classroom instruction that engages the students in meaningful, innovative, place-based, project-based learning, and citizen science activities geared around site and community needs. Community Engagement – which includes interviews with community members, involvement in community-based environmental monitoring, and through annual student events. Application of Knowledge – Students will discuss components of the Weather and Climate Tool-Kit with community members, elders, and leaders, focusing on climate-related problems, and action planning for mitigation and adaptation. Students can share active research regarding impacts and available resources. This project will be orchestrated through the Chugach School District, which serves rural students from all over the state of Alaska through their Voyages residential, two-week phase programs, as well as the three Prince William Sound villages of Chenega Bay, Whittier, and Tatitlek, and an extensive home school services program. The coastal, native Alaskan villages of Seldovia, Port Graham, Tyonek, and Nanwalek across Kachemak Bay, in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will be included in this project. ELACS directly connects to NOAA’s educational mission, as it will help the target population understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts through project objectives and activities. This project will promote the students’ stewardship and deeper understanding of their environment and the changes happening at a local and global level.
Southcentral Alaska Collaborative for Resilience through Education and Decision-making (SACRED)
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve will partner with tribal organizations in southcentral Alaska to foster and support community-driven educational and monitoring programs that will safeguard healthy marine resources and abundant freshwater resources against rapid, ongoing climatic changes affecting Alaska Native communities. The goal is to increase environmental literacy and resiliency within southcentral Alaska’s most vulnerable communities through workshops that enhance community-based monitoring programs and engage tribal Environmental Coordinators, local educators, and high school students in culturally responsive hazards education. Through the Southcentral Alaska Collaborative for Resilience through Education and Decision-making (SACRED) project, communities will establish sustainable long-term environmental monitoring programs and educational opportunities that involve youth in reducing risks from marine toxins and ensuring continued access to traditional foods and safe drinking water.
Increasing Sea-Level Rise Resilience in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Sea-level rise (SLR) will disproportionately affect the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGOM; coastal Mississippi, Alabama, and northwest Florida) due to a confluence of socioeconomic challenges (e.g., vulnerable industry, low per capita income, low level of educational attainment, etc.), higher than average rates of SLR, and low-lying topography. Resilience of nGOM social, economic, and cultural resources in the face of SLR requires an informed and engaged constituency and leadership that understands their risks, SLR adaptation options, and the civic processes required for action. Multiple formal and informal needs assessments have identified specific educational and informational gaps that act as barriers to SLR action in nGOM coastal communities. To address the SLR resilience barriers identified by nGOM stakeholders and decision-makers, the project team will implement a comprehensive and diverse education program that engages multiple sectors within coastal communities including youth, educators, municipal officials, concerned citizens, and non-participants (i.e., those who have not yet been engaged in dialogue around SLR resilience). The goal of the project is science and civics literate constituencies in the northern Gulf of Mexico that can actively support cultures, economies, and ecosystems that are resilient to SLR. This goal will be achieved by developing an inclusive SLR education program that spans ages, locations, and demographics. There are three categories of project activities targeting different community sectors: 1) educator workshops encouraging application of an existing SLR curriculum for high school students; 2) Community Connection Dialogues that connect community leaders working on SLR with engaged constituents to inform and empower future action; and 3) pop-in immersive SLR experiences at “every day” locations (e.g., baseball games, art walks) to reach those without the means/motivation to engage in SLR resilience. The SLR curriculum, Community Connection Dialogues, and Pop-Ins are three parts of a whole that work to bring community members at all levels of understanding and engagement into the conversation and direct them towards the next step in their pathway to SLR community resilience. This work is being led by Mississippi State University in partnership with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and the University of South Alabama. Collaborators from across the region will include the Mississippi State University Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, the five Gulf National Estuarine Research Reserves, Audubon Nature Institute, 350 Pensacola, League of Women Voters of Mobile, EEECHO, Ocean Springs Environmental Committee, UF/IFAS, Perdido & Pensacola Bays Estuary Program, Better Growth Mobile, Cities of Ocean Springs, MS and Pensacola, FL, Counties of Jackson, MS and Santa Rosa, FL, and the GoM Climate and Resilience Community of Practice.
Building a Green Texas: Activating a New Generation of Sustainability Leaders
Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income and otherwise marginalized communities that typically have the fewest resources to adapt. Furthermore, the very communities that feel the effects of climate change most acutely have been historically underrepresented in the fields of sustainability and green building. The Building a Green Texas (BGT) project helps address these concerns by giving high school students opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to tackle challenges posed by climate change. In the process, students gain valuable green career skills and credentials and become part of a green building school-to-job pipeline that will help contribute to a more diverse workforce. Texas-based nonprofit EcoRise, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute/National Estuarine Reserve System of NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management will lead this robust, three-year project beginning in Central Texas in Year 1 and expanding into Houston and Texas Gulf Coast communities in Year 2. Through school-year field experiences and paid summer internships, students in the program will use established scientific evidence, citizen science, and an understanding of location-specific socioeconomic and ecological factors to explore current and future extreme weather phenomena and other environmental hazards facing their communities. They will gain real-world learning experiences and career exposure by directly engaging with scientists, civic leaders, green building professionals, and NOAA data and staff. As students help design community-based green building projects, they will consider scientific uncertainty, cultural knowledge, and social equity, in the real-world context of improving community resilience.