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.
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.
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.”