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.
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.
ResilienceMT: Building Resilience in Montana’s Rural and Tribal Communities
“ResilienceMT: Building Resilience in Montana’s Rural and Tribal Communities” education and engagement activities will enhance the environmental literacy of over 2,000 Montanans, including youth and adults, and support community climate resilience planning, implementation, and capacity building. This project addresses the need for adaptive capacity related to (1) wildfires and associated impacts on human health, state and local budgets, and Montana’s tourism and recreation economies; (2) drought and impacts on crops, agricultural economies, wildlife and game species, and culturally-significant plants; and (3) flooding due to extreme weather events and changes in amount and timing of spring snowmelt and associated impacts on water supplies, recreation, and fishing. Impacts associated with our changing climate are already occurring, and rural and tribal communities are particularly vulnerable and less prepared than larger communities. Project objectives include building action competence and capacity for resilience planning and implementation among youth and adults in partner communities. Specifically, the project will develop participants’ climate resilience-related knowledge and skills as well as their willingness, confidence, and capacity for action. Project leaders from the University of Montana, including spectrUM Discovery Area, and Montana State University will work in close collaboration with two tribal communities in Montana, the Blackfeet Nation, and the Fort Belknap Indian Community, and with two rural communities in the Bitterroot Valley, all of which are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Project activities aimed at achieving these objectives include (1) An interactive, data-based Mobile Climate Resilience Exhibit serving middle and high school students and families; (2) Community Climate Resilience Resource Guides; (3) Community Climate Resilience Forums; and (4) Follow-up interviews, report dissemination, and additional education and networking opportunities. The Mobile Exhibit will be collaboratively designed with partner teachers and communities and will utilize data and expertise from multiple sources including NOAA and the Montana Climate Office. The exhibit will employ digital ESRI Story Maps and other interactive physical elements to allow students and families to explore the science of wildfires, drought, and flooding; historical trends and projected climate changes, impacts, and interrelated human and ecological vulnerabilities at multiple geographic scales; and locally relevant climate resilience strategies. Elements of the Mobile Exhibit will be included in the Resource Guides, which will be available online and in print at the Community Forums. Collaboratively designed and led with tribal environmental offices and community partner organizations, the Community Climate Resilience Forums will include intergenerational dialogue; enhance understanding of community climate vulnerabilities and resilience planning efforts; and facilitate local action projects. Project leaders will obtain additional input from forum participants and community leaders; report to the community on the results; and facilitate various follow-up engagement, education, and networking activities among students and other community members to support achieving project objectives.