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.
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.”