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.
Building Environmental Resiliency Leaders (BERL)
Among the most geographically isolated islands in the world, Maui’s fragile environment is highly vulnerable to sudden (hurricanes, flooding) and prolonged (drought, ocean acidification, sea-level rise) environmental changes. The University of Hawai?i Maui College seeks to build an environmentally literate and resilient community equipped to address, manage, and mitigate the challenges associated with environmental events and hazards. Building Environmental Resiliency Leaders (BERL) has three main goals: 1) Develop environmental hazards modules specific to Hawai’i that can be integrated into high-school curriculum; 2) Strengthen students’ understanding of environmental hazards and build self-efficacy in being contributors towards community resilience; and 3) Create community awareness of and ability to prepare for environmental hazards. By partnering with all 10 Maui County public and private high schools, BERL seeks to empower 200 environmentally resilient high school youth leaders —including Native Hawaiian, underrepresented, and low-income students in grades 9 through 12— throughout the islands of Maui, Moloka?i, and Lana?i. The BERL project will develop the Environmental Resiliency Youth Leaders certification program with curriculum to engage students in active learning through innovative Problem-based Learning (PBL) group projects where students select a research topic informed by climate resiliency educational modules and consult with community subject matter experts; including partners from the National Weather Service, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, University of Hawai?i Sea Grant, Maui Emergency Management Agency, Maui County energy Commissioner, and Hawai?i Emergency Management Agency. Specifically, curriculum will integrate and align: 1) Overview of environmental events & hazards: tropical cyclones/hurricanes, drought/fires, ocean acidification, and seal level rise/flooding ; 2) Local scenarios & experiential outdoor learning; 3) US Climate Resiliency Toolkit; and 4) Development of resiliency plan to work towards either a) utilizing school as resiliency hub site; or b) addressing long-term resiliency to prolonged environmental changes. As a culminating event, students will present their final projects and host workshops to the broader community at local or regional events with a potential reach of 90,000 annually over three project years. In addition, BERL will hold an annual Resiliency Awareness Day, reaching 1,000 students annually, to build community awareness and resources. Amidst the threat of COVID-19 and necessary safety measures, BERL is prepared to mobilize an online curriculum for students with online presentations and virtual events to reach the broader community. BERL aligns with NOAA’s mission to educate and motivate individuals to apply environmental science to increase stewardship and resilience to environmental hazards by creating a cadre of youth environmental resiliency leaders, trained educators, and broadly reaching over half of the Maui County population. The project employs a culturally relevant, place-based, and PBL approach where 40 teams of students engage in research projects to build environmental literacy at their high schools and the wider community. In alignment with NOAA's Education Strategic Plan (2015-2035), BERL seeks to “educate and inspire people to use Earth system science toward improving ecosystem stewardship and increasing resilience to environmental hazards.”
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.
Empowering Rural Youth for Community Climate Resilience in New York State
Empowering Rural Youth for Community Climate Resilience in New York State is a three-year project led by The Wild Center in partnership with the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith College and the Alliance for Climate Education, which builds on the achievements of Convening Young Leaders for Climate Resilience, a project previously funded by NOAA. Today’s youth are deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change in their communities and increasingly demand positive action and a role in decision-making. The proposed collaboration will support the development of leadership skills for rural youth by creating programming that demonstrates best practices for students and teachers to engage and partner with local municipalities on climate resilience planning. The project will also increase awareness of the NY State Climate Smart Community (CSC) program, a national model. Over the next 3 years the project will: 1) Develop pathways for young people--specifically in rural areas--to effectively partner with decision-makers in their home communities through partnering with the NY State Climate Smart Community (CSC) program; 2) Increase climate literacy, education and action among high school students through place-based Youth Climate Summits and intensive Youth Climate Leadership Retreats; 3) Increase teacher comprehension and confidence to prioritize climate change education instruction and mentor students; and 4) Formalize the NY State Youth Climate Summit network by establishing a community of practice centered on sharing best practices and actions that align with NY State climate change adaptation and resilience planning. This project aligns with NY State’s climate resiliency planning by building on successful and current partnerships with the NY State Office of Climate Change, NY State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and NOAA’s Climate Program Office to connect project participants with cutting edge science, hazard assessments, and established community climate resilience programs. The project will serve 700-800 high school students, 60-80 high school teachers, and 60 youth leaders in New York State. The project is also designed to reach a much wider audience, including 30 rural decision-makers and community members, as well as 50-60 formal/informal educators. Project documentation includes a Guide to the NY State Climate Smart Community Program for Students and Educators, and a Youth and Local Government for Climate Resilience Workshop Module, which will benefit other Youth Climate Summits and be disseminated through the online toolkit and through the national network of youth climate summits. Additionally, the project will support a community of practice for informal and formal educators across NY State who are working on new and existing Youth Climate Summits to provide the opportunity to align with the CSC program, collaborate on best practices, and co-create strategies for engagement.
Climate Resilience and Community-driven Action With a Hyperlocalized Public Forum
The Science Museum of Virginia will build upon its community science experience and its role as a trusted source of climate science information to lead “Climate Resilience and Community-driven Action with a Hyperlocalized Public Forum in Richmond, VA” in partnership with Virginia Community Voice, Groundwork RVA, Happily Natural Day, and Southside ReLeaf - local nonprofits with proven track records of effecting change through community engagement and urban greening initiatives. This project supports Richmond’s work to heal social, racial, and environmental injustices by increasing community resilience to climate change through placemaking. Richmond served as both the Capital of the Confederacy and the United States’ second largest trading port for enslaved persons during the 19th century. In the 1930s and 1940s, redlining - the systematic denial of access to home loans, mortgage insurance, or credit based on an applicant’s race or ethnicity - effectively segregated people of color into less desirable urban neighborhoods. Research conducted both in Richmond and nationwide demonstrates that, today, formerly redlined neighborhoods tend to be significantly hotter, more prone to flooding, and experience poorer air quality than non-redlined areas. These neighborhoods also tend to be home to individuals - mostly Black and brown - with the fewest resources to adapt to the health and financial impacts of human-caused climate change, which continues to intensify each year. Richmond’s mayor and Office of Sustainability support this project, which will align community vision with existing planning efforts that seek to build a Richmond that is “a sustainable and resilient city with healthy air, clean water, and a flourishing ecosystem that nurtures healthy communities, increases resiliency to the effects of a changing climate through adaptation and mitigation, develops the built environment to enhance natural assets, and ensures all people have access to nature and healthy communities.” Because resiliency is a process, youth and adults participating in this project will explore hazards (specifically flooding and extreme heat); assess their vulnerability and risks (determine how climate change is currently harming, or will most likely harm, neighborhoods); investigate options (by determining which resilience-building strategies are most effective for each community and vision); prioritize and plan local resilience-building strategies (ensuring that residents’ vision can be realized); and take action by implementing and sustaining projects in the community with project partners. Strategies may include placemaking through planting trees, building permeable pathways, constructing shade structures, and creating community gardens to provide shade, fresh food, and neighborhood gathering spaces, as well as rainwater harvesting and bioretention rain gardens to mitigate stormwater issues. This project is unique because it will actively support nonprofits that engage historically underserved people whose voice is commonly left out of City planning efforts, increase their environmental literacy, and provide resources needed to enact their vision. RK&A will evaluate the project, which will build upon evaluation data from the Science Museum’s previous NOAA ELP-funded project - “Learn, Prepare, Act - Resilient Citizens Make Resilient Communities” - and a NOAA-funded project by the Museum of Science Boston - “Citizen Science, Civics, and Resilient Communities: Increasing Resilience Through Citizen-Created Data, Local Knowledge and Community Values.”
The Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) Phase II: Connecting Schools to Coastal Communities
With a three-year $450,000 grant from NOAA, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and partners will implement Phase II of a climate and resilience education program, The Resilient Schools Consortium: Connecting Schools to Coastal Communities. Building on the previously funded Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) Program, (2016 - 2019), NWF will work with 200 students and 10 teachers from eight New York City Department of Education public schools. The students will adopt-a-shoreline in Coney Island, Brooklyn—a frontline community battered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and threatened by sea level rise, coastal erosion, and inequitable exposures to flooding. Through field trips to local beaches, community engagement events, dune plantings, and public art installations, this project will connect students—who live or attend school in the Coney Island area—to residents and community partners. Together, they will increase their awareness of future climate impacts and develop strategies for building climate resilience and equitable adaptation to sea level rise. The Phase 1 RiSC curriculum for grades 6-12, designed by NYC STEM teachers, will be streamlined into a one-year product focused on coastal hazards, natural and built solutions that increase ecological resilience, and civic participation. Adaptable by schools in other coastal communities, the curriculum will continue to offer a strong foundation in climate science. Complete with user-friendly slide decks, handouts, and direct links to NOAA resources and digital tools, it will guide teachers and students through project-based activities during the school year. Key program partners, New York Sea Grant, and American Littoral Society (ALS), and advisors from the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB) will provide community science expertise and lead shoreline ecology field trips. An “Adopt-a-Shoreline Field Trip Guide” will help students monitor the shoreline. ALS will lead professional development workshops for teachers and dune-planting activities that will increase shoreline resilience. The Coney Island Beautification Project, a core community partner, will lead public engagement and outreach, and recruit residents with historical knowledge of local weather events for student interviews. Students will build sea level rise markers and install them in suitable public spaces. Culminating Open Houses will bring Coney Islanders together to view student work and provide a platform to discuss flood risks and solutions. Knology will evaluate the project’s impact.