Science Center Public Forums: Community Engagement for Environmental Literacy, Improved Resilience, and Decision-Making
By engaging diverse publics in immersive and deliberative learning forums, this three-year project will use NOAA data and expertise to strengthen community resilience and decision-making around a variety of climate and weather-related hazards across the United States. Led by Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes and the Museum of Science Boston, the project will develop citizen forums hosted by regional science centers to create a new, replicable model for learning and engagement. These forums, to be hosted initially in Boston and Phoenix and then expanded to an additional six sites around the U.S., will facilitate public deliberation on real-world issues of concern to local communities, including rising sea levels, extreme precipitation, heat waves, and drought. The forums will identify and clarify citizen values and perspectives while creating stakeholder networks in support of local resilience measures. The forum materials developed in collaboration with NOAA will foster better understanding of environmental changes and best practices for improving community resiliency, and will create a suite of materials and case studies adaptable for use by science centers, teachers, and students. With regional science centers bringing together the public, scientific experts, and local officials, the project will create resilience-centered partnerships and a framework for learning and engagement that can be replicated nationwide.
Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement (PLACE)
Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement: Environmental Literacy Through Climate Change Discussions (PLACE) is a nationally disseminated, locally-based program that engages adults in geographic-specific discussions and critical thinking about resilient responses to environmental changes and extreme weather events, through programs in their local public libraries. Historically, opportunities to increase adults’ environmental literacy have typically been available only through established science centers, and/or tended to target citizens who are already interested in environmental topics and issues. While science center hosted events and exhibits are important, reaching new and underserved audiences is imperative. PLACE engages new audiences — in their own libraries and with their own communities — by discussing their challenges, threats and helping their communities prepare for and respond to climate change and extreme weather events. PLACE will help rural and under-resourced communities build resilience to their region's’ unique vulnerabilities and threats through the following: (1) Select 50 rural and under-resourced libraries across the United States, (2) Create environmental literacy materials for library programs and professional development materials for librarians, (3) Provide professional development to participating librarians, developing their environmental literacy and fostering the use of NOAA assets for library patron services, (4) Assist libraries in finding and partnering with NOAA scientists, (5) Support libraries implementing a three-part, environmental literacy book/video/discussion program series for adults, complemented by a curated collection of NOAA assets that align with each program’s topic, and (6) Perform a summative evaluation of the impact and outcomes of the program. The project has a sustainability plan and a network in place to support the activities in an ongoing, national model for years beyond the initial project funding. PLACE leverages the model and resources of an earlier, similar program, Pushing the Limits (funded by the National Science Foundation), which demonstrated significant success in raising adults’ general science literacy in rural libraries across the United States. The project is being created, disseminated and evaluated through a partnership of The Califa Group (a California library consortium) and the National Weather Service, working in tandem with NOAA’s Office of Education.
Global, Local, Coastal: Preparing The Next Generation for A Changing Planet
This project, “Global, Local, Coastal: Preparing the Next Generation for A Changing Planet," was led by Groundwork Hudson Valley in partnership with Sarah Lawrence College's Center for the Urban River, to integrate and expand the work of three award-winning environmental education centers in Yonkers, NY – The Science Barge, Ecohouse and the Center for the Urban River (CURB). Its primary objective was to prepare low-income students for the impact of a changing climate so that they can participate both personally and professionally in a world in which these issues are increasingly prevalent. It reached an audience that is not well served by traditional programs and is most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Over the course of two years, the project served 544 high school youth from the Yonkers public school system through a new, integrated curriculum that presented these issues from multiple perspectives in an experiential learning format. Beyond its impact on students, the project has had a broader impact on people in our region who have visited the Science Barge, Ecohouse and CURB, which together receive close to 10,000 people each year. The new exhibits have reinforced key themes related to resiliency and adaptation and staff have integrated these concepts into their public tours. Beyond our region, the project has further impacted STEM educators across the country with access to the newly created "Global, Local, Coastal" curriculum and web application which is posted on Groundwork's website and accessible without charge. Other partners included NOAA’s Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and Center for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast (CCRUN), and Yonkers Public Schools. The project has been carried out in a community that has been severely affected by extreme weather in the last decade, including three hurricanes. Outcomes have helped to create “an informed society to anticipate and respond to climate and its impacts” and served to support NOAA’s goal of a developing a “Weather-Ready Nation” and “Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies.”