U.S. Virgin Islands Storm Strong Program
Under leadership from the University of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and local, non-profit, long-term, 2017 storm recovery groups, this 5-year project will create the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Storm Strong Program. To date, minimal efforts have been made to engage the USVI community in hurricane education and preparation. As a result, USVI communities face significant, but often preventable, storm risks. This is the Territory’s first sustained, community-based, hurricane hazard preparedness, and community leadership building program. The USVI Storm Strong Program will engage underserved and underrepresented middle- and high-school youth and their families on all of the Territory’s main islands - St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix - in a program modelled after the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit framework. Youth and their families will: (1) explore the science and hazards associated with hurricanes, (2) assess their communities’ vulnerabilities and associated risks, (3) evaluate personal and community assets and options to increase resilience, (4) prioritize and plan for events occurring before, during, and after a storm, and (5) take action, in this case, through Community Transfer Projects, which will turn the information gained through the Program into local actions to increase individual and community resilience, sharing knowledge and actions with the broader USVI community and beyond. Through this training, ~400 USVI youth and their families will be empowered as environmental leaders and change agents within their communities and important insights will be learned as to how best to engage underrepresented and underserved groups in hazard preparedness. Creation of the USVI Storm Strong Program is timely, given the significant impacts resulting from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 hurricanes that devastated the USVI in September 2017. These storms provide a window of opportunity to bring together partners from federal, territorial, non-governmental, academic, and the private sector, to develop a strategic, cohesive, long-term, high-impact, community-based program to improve environmental literacy and extreme weather hazard preparedness in the Territory, goals that align with the mission of NOAA’s Office of Education.
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.
HEARTForce: Hazard Education, Awareness & Resilience Taskforce
Communities in Colorado are increasingly experiencing major disruptions from environmental hazards, such as fire, flood, drought and extreme heat. With this rise in hazardous events, there is a pressing need for communities increase their resilience. An interdisciplinary team from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) Education & Outreach Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder is developing and implementing an innovative, action-oriented youth engagement project targeting rural Colorado students, teachers and communities. Our engagement model empowers youth i) to envision community resilience through immersive scenario-based role play based on a solid understanding of the relevant science, ii) to learn about natural hazards through engaging Colorado-focused lessons, iii) to initiate conversations about hazard preparedness from within communities, and iv) to develop and implement student-led resilience action projects. The project team is developing instructional materials for middle and high school students: four lesson plans focused on different hazards (fire, flood, drought, extreme heat), four complementary scenario-based role-play games with a focus on youth empowerment and a teacher workshop based on these materials. Each school implementation follows a sequence in which the lesson plan activities are conducted, followed by a scenario-based role play game and reflection. Building on their experience with the game, students develop resilience strategies for their community and present those at a community Resilience Expo. The project has the following three objectives: 1) Increase Colorado secondary teachers’ knowledge and confidence to teach about local natural hazards, and to facilitate discussions about community resilience; 2) Increase Colorado youth’s understanding of natural hazards, their community’s vulnerability, and their involvement in resilience planning efforts, and 3) Enhance the capacity and empowerment of young people in Colorado to engage in dialogue with their peers, families, and community stakeholders about community resilience issues and identify, develop, and implement resilience actions. A needs assessment disseminated to Colorado teachers guides the project team in the development of all instructional materials and allows for customizing the content to teacher needs. The project evaluation explores the efficacy of the program model and studies the impact of the project activities on students and teachers. Specifically, the evaluation studies students’ confidence and ability to engage in dialogue around community resilience, level to which students increase their understanding of natural hazards and resilience planning, and the ways in which teachers increase their content knowledge and confidence in teaching about natural hazards. The project fills a critical gap in Colorado’s resilience planning which does not include teachers and youth. The project is guided by partners from the NOAA RISA program Western Water Assessment, seven NOAA science advisors, Science on the Sphere collaborators, and is being implemented together with over 20 community partners, school partners and collaborators from across Colorado. Over the course of the three-year program, the project activities will train and support 140 teachers, engage 400+ students and result in 11 Resilience Expo events across Colorado, from primarily rural communities. The instructional units and the games will be used in classrooms with 600+ students.