Use the filter menu and interactive map to explore the past competitions offered and grants awarded through the Environmental Literacy Program.
To learn more about project findings and outcomes, view the summaries of our grantees’ summative evaluation reports.
Earth as a System is Essential- Seasons and the Seas (EaSiE- SS)
The project will fill the critical need for a relevant, contextual curricular theme for middle school learning. Its goal is to incorporate NOAA resources and virtual visits by NOAA scientists to integrate authentic earth systems science content into existing instructional units using the theme of seasons on land and in the ocean. Development of these materials -- in association with appropriate standards-based middle school learning goals and pedagogy, supported by substantive professional development, collegial networking, and supplied with the tools to meet this need, -- form the rationale for this project. In EaSiE-SS, thirty middle school teachers from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts will become Teacher Resource Agents. Working with state science supervisors, NOAA scientists, educators, and MMSA staff, these individuals will complete 120 hours of professional development over 24-months including two Summer Institutes, two Fall Conferences, one Spring Conference, two web conferences, two unit implementations, webinars, podcasts, and web discussion boards. They will gain content background, integrate MMSA staff reviewed and aligned materials into their instruction, conduct field tests of the materials, and share them with colleagues in their own states and across the country through state science supervisors, the project website, marine science teachers, and state science teachers associations.
Ocean Sciences Curriculum Sequence for Grades 3-5
In close collaboration and partnership, the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) at the University of California, Berkeley, the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory (COOL), Rutgers University Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences, and the Carolina Biological Supply Company will update, adapt, transform, and widely disseminate existing instructional materials from the LHS Marine Activities Resources & Education (MARE) and Great Explorations in Mathematics and Sciences (GEMS) programs. The materials will provide teachers with a standards-based tool for teaching basic science using the ocean as a compelling integrating context. The materials will be grounded in current research on teaching and learning and designed to connect to the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts, and national and state science standards. The activities will be thoroughly pilot and field tested to ensure their effectiveness and applicability nationwide. The finished product will include print materials for teachers, with inquiry-based learning activities, student readings and data sheets, curriculum-embedded assessments, and commercially available materials kits that will allow the Sequence to be adopted by whole school systems and/or states (see http://www.lhsgems.org/CurriculumSequences.htm).
Sailing Elementary Teachers Towards Ocean Literacy Using Familiar Water Resources
This project plans to increase elementary and undergraduate ocean science and related Great Lakes science literacy that aligns with the Michigan Curriculum, the national science standards, and the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts. We will 1) develop an elementary storybook and other elementary classroom materials that support ocean and Great Lakes literacy, 2) train pre-service elementary teachers to use this Storybook, 3) develop undergraduate activities that support the NOAA Education Plan and Ocean Literacy in teacher education courses at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), and 4) train teachers in Detroit and Dexter (MI) and Golden (CO) to use an elementary storybook and related activities that support Ocean Literacy. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and oceanographic experts at EMU and the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) will partner with us to develop the elementary storybook. This elementary resource will be freely available to all teachers, via the internet (see http://www.windows2universe.org/teacher_resources/ocean_education/curre…). Our second objective is that teachers will relate ocean and Great Lakes science to theirs and their students' lives. We will accomplish this by 1) producing teacher-friendly web resources that make Great Lakes data from GLERL accessible for use by elementary teachers and 2) teaching pre-service teachers to interpret these data during undergraduate, inquiry activities at EMU. Our third objective is to measure environmental, ocean and Great Lakes literacy among pre-service teachers and their students before and after implementation of targeted instruction. We will accomplish this via 1) assessing pre- and in-service teachers' content knowledge and ability to apply content knowledge in ocean and Great Lakes science, 2) assessing elementary children for content knowledge and ability to apply content knowledge in ocean and Great Lakes science, 3) performance assessments of pre- and in-service teachers' abilities to interpret environmental data, 4) standardized tests of Earth Science content knowledge, and 5) surveys of pre- and in-service teachers' attitudes towards ocean literacy and supporting materials.
Ocean Interpretive Stations: A Pilot Program for Coastal America Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers
This project creates a pilot program to deliver ocean literacy learning opportunities to 7 million people across the country through installation of dynamic Ocean Interpretive Stations at five Coastal America Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers: the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA; the J.L.Scott Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs, MS; the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL; the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD; and the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, IA. These Interpretive Stations present vital messages of ocean literacy to the broad public using and expanding on a proven product in a free choice learning environment in four key sites across the country. The pilot kiosks provide the regional stories of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River watershed and the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific. The Ocean Interpretive Stations enhance ocean literacy among museum goers through multimedia offerings, providing current, newsworthy and foundational ocean topics to encourage visitor learning. The project has the potential to be disseminated to 18 other Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers throughout the United States, with the possibility of reaching over 25 million visitors. The project outcomes are: Increased awareness of ocean issues on the part of visitors; increased knowledge of regional ocean issues; increased capacity of sites to provide additional resources to teachers in the four regions; and encouragement of additional partnerships in the future.
Building Environmental Literacy: How the Ocean Community Can Connect More Effectively With the American Public
In 1999, The Ocean Project completed a comprehensive opinion research on public attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge of the ocean ever conducted. The research identified a broad vacuum in public understanding of the ocean; a fundamental issue of ocean literacy. To further increase effectiveness in building ocean literacy, this project updates and expands The Ocean Project's research to create a more highly detailed database of public awareness, knowledge, and attitudes about the ocean and the impact of climate change on the ocean. It develops recommendations to enable free-choice learning educators to improve the ocean and climate literacy of their visitors. The study includes a comprehensive review of existing literature, qualitative and quantitative research, analysis of the data, and publication and broad dissemination, including recommendations for programs and content that build ocean and climate literacy. The work done by The Ocean Project is helping the ocean education community better understand the motivations, psychology, and emotions behind segments of the public's attitudes toward the ocean. These data are essential as the institutions, agencies and organizations of the ocean community work together and independently to engage people, inform decision-makers, and enhance ocean and climate literacy throughout the Nation.
Here to the Ocean, a nationally traveling museum exhibition
The Sciencenter seeks to develop a 1,500-square-foot traveling exhibition, called "Here to the Ocean," on how activity in inland watersheds affects the health of the ocean, and therefore the planet. The unifying theme of the exhibition is "What we do here, has an impact there," and the key take-home message for museum visitors is that ocean water quality is not just a coastal issue. This exhibition will travel to museums throughout the United States, reaching an estimated 200,000+ visitors annually for at least seven years, resulting in an estimated total impact of 1.5 million visitors in at least 20 U.S. cities. The core audience of this exhibition will be families with children ages 6-12, and children visiting museums in school groups. "Here to the Ocean" will feature interactive open-ended exhibits that bring watershed science to life, including an immersive experience allowing visitors to conduct their own virtual underwater tours of watersheds by stepping inside and operating a submersible research vehicle on an expedition from a backyard creek all the way to the ocean. This and other exhibits will feature stunning high-definition video footage depicting fauna from various water ecosystems, as well as human activities that affect watershed health. Additional hands-on exhibits will help visitors to understand how watersheds are connected to the ocean, basic concepts in hydrology, the impact of pollution, and what science offers in the way of solutions to watershed problems. Exhibits will be designed to inspire visitors to adopt behaviors that protect their local watersheds. Visitors experiencing this exhibition will: 1) leave with an increased understanding of watershed science that will help them make informed, data-driven decisions on issues relating to watersheds; 2) have an increased awareness of the importance of watershed health and positive attitudes about the need to protect local watersheds; 3) have an increased understanding of the value of science in solving environmental problems and will be inspired to stay involved in science through school and/or career; and 4) feel an increased sense of personal watershed stewardship which they will share with others.
R4Ed: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships in Resilience Education
Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships in Coastal Louisiana Resilience Education (R4Ed) helped high school students in coastal Louisiana learn through data analysis about the science of hurricanes in a warming world, learn through local stories about impacts of hurricanes, and then identify resilient actions that could help keep their households and their communities safe. To accomplish this the UCAR Center for Science Education worked with the NCAR Capacity Center for Climate and Weather Extremes and the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center to develop a high school curriculum called Hurricane Resilience. During 20 days of instruction, students make connections between the science of hurricanes, how they affect their community and region, and how we can plan for a more resilient future. Making local connections, students develop an understanding of 1) the risks that their community faces now and in the future due to hurricanes and tropical storms, 2) how sea level rise increases the risk, and 3) how our actions can help us be less vulnerable and more resilient. The curriculum unit aims to empower high school students to have a voice in resilience planning and understand the relationship between the science of hurricanes and the local impacts these storms have on people and places. Hurricane Resilience is available online and adaptable for high schools in any coastal location where hurricanes pose a threat. The R4Ed project worked with science curriculum coordinators in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, Louisiana, to ensure that the curriculum would meet the needs of their districts. We pilot tested the curriculum in three high school environmental science classes at South Terrebonne High School in Houma, Louisiana. The finalized curriculum was modified to work for in-person, hybrid, and virtual learning formats during the pandemic. The implementation was scaled up to serve 600 students instructed by 12 teachers in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes, LA, during the 2020-2021 school year and then approximately 1000 students during the 2021-2022 school year. Teacher professional development workshops instructed virtually when Covid-19 risk was high and in-person when risk was lower, oriented teachers to the lessons. Over the course of this project, Hurricane Resilience reached 1658 students and approximately 80 educators. In addition, the project reached 220 members of the public during a community event in 2019. Evaluation results indicated that resilience was not part of the environmental science curriculum prior to Hurricane Resilience and 92% of the teachers in this project had never addressed resilience in their environmental science curriculum before this project. Teachers instructing Hurricane Resilience indicated that the curriculum engaged students in concepts that impact their daily lives and the future of their community. We continue to support implementation of Hurricane Resilience in area schools and find ways to build on this foundation, assisting young people as they develop decision making strategies that will help them navigate risk and decrease vulnerability as related to hurricanes, climate change, and sea level rise in the rapidly changing Louisiana Bayou.
Citizen Science, Civics, and Resilient Communities (CSCRC)
The "Citizen Science, Civics, and Resilient Communities" (CSCRC) education project led by the Museum of Science, Boston in partnership with Arizona State University and Northeastern University will increase resilience to extreme weather and environmental hazards through citizen-created data, local knowledge, and community values. Building upon previous funding from NOAA in which a set of modules were created and used to engage participants in active learning and resilience planning about four natural hazards (heat waves, sea level rise, extreme precipitation, and drought), the museum and its partners will add participatory citizen science activities selected in close collaboration with resilience planners. This new and expanded project will involve diverse groups of participants at 28 U.S. science centers collecting, analyzing, and sharing data relevant to local resilience planners, learning about vulnerabilities through visualizations of geospatial data and deliberative problem-solving, sharing perspectives about resilience strategies and their societal and environmental trade-offs, formulating community resilience plans, and presenting findings and recommendations to resilience planners and publics. The project aims to formulate a theory of action that sustains engagement and increases environmental literacy among participants, contributes citizen-created data, knowledge, and values to resilience planning, and increases capacity among science centers for including publics in resilience planning and data collection.
Resilience from the Youth Up
As climate impacts ratchet up across the United States, the Great Lakes region tends to fly under the national radar. While the Great Lakes do not experience hurricanes, rising sea levels, or large-scale wildfires, the local climate has become increasingly erratic in recent years. The region, however, is one of the most unprepared in the country to cope with these impacts. A recent Grosvenor report (2014) on climate resilience among 50 global cities ranked Detroit last among 11 U.S. cities for adaptability and only better than three cities for overall resilience, which incorporates both climate vulnerability and adaptability factors. Of U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, Detroit has the highest percentage of African-American residents (80.7%, U.S. Census 2016). Still recovering from bankruptcy, the city also has a 39% poverty rate, which impacts over 56% of children (ibid). These socio-economic factors, coupled with other environmental justice concerns, such as a centrally located incinerator and an asthma rate of 15.5% among adults resulting in over 3,000 hospitalizations annually, make Detroit residents particularly vulnerable to climate impacts. This project will address the urgent need to increase resilience by working with high school students and teachers in Detroit and southeast Michigan to increase their awareness of climate change and develop projects that help their schools and neighborhoods become resilient to increased occurrence and intensity of heat waves, storm events, and flooding. Using NOAA assets, including GLISA localized climate data and Sea Grant outreach and education expertise, high school students and teachers will partner with climate scientists to explore local climate impacts firsthand and to develop resilience strategies and projects that protect vulnerable households and neighborhoods and contribute to broader sustainability initiatives. The City of Detroit seeks this involvement as it ramps up a new Office of Sustainability and seeks proposals to develop the city's first Sustainability Framework. The effort is a partnership with EcoWorks, Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA), Michigan Sea Grant (MISG), Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS), Eastern Michigan University, Civic Research Services, Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In each of the next three years, 200 students from various high schools in the Detroit and Ypsilanti areas will participate in weekly activities related to the grant. The four primary objectives of the program include: 1) Engage students in assessing and quantifying climate vulnerabilities of their schools, neighborhoods, and surrounding community. 2) Using a place-based education (PBE) model, prepare educators to engage students in creating plans and completing projects that increase community resilience. 3) Empower high school students to teach residents about local climate impacts and increase understanding of resilience strategies to mitigate extreme weather events or other environmental hazards. 4) Contribute to the completion and implementation of local sustainability and climate action plans in Southeast Michigan.
CREATE Resilience: Community Resilience through Education, Art, Technology, and Engagement
CREATE Resilience: Community Resilience through Education, Art, Technology and Engagement, is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between youth and community to 1) improve environmental hazards literacy, and 2) increase engagement in resiliency actions by youth and adult residents in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. CREATE Resilience is designed to increase community knowledge about weather and climate science, risks from local hazards, and strategies for hazard mitigation, while co-creating a vision for community resilience. Developed by Nurture Nature Center (NNC) in Easton, PA, the four-year project will work with local, state and federal partners in three hazard-prone communities in the Lehigh Valley (Easton, Bangor and Wilson areas). Hazards, particularly weather-related hazards including flooding, have had major impacts in these communities historically and recently, causing extensive damage to property and disruption to community services. Damaging river flooding along the Delaware River in 2004, 2005 and 2006 highlighted major planning and safety challenges for many municipalities in the area with high flood risk, and a recently updated regional Hazard Mitigation plan highlighted other hazards – as well as the need for public education about hazards and mitigation. CREATE Resilience’s advisory board will work with NNC to bring education and engagement events to teach the science of these hazards, as well the household and community-level strategies and tools available for resilience. Partners include the National Weather Service (NWS) Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center and Mt. Holly, NJ Weather Forecast Office, and Weather Prediction Center, as well as LV Planning Commission, Northampton County Emergency Management Agency, LV Community Foundation, Lafayette College, and FEMA Region 3 Mitigation Division. In years 1 and 2, the project will form CREATE Youth Ambassador teams, in which student interns from area high schools will meet NWS meteorologists, engage in community storytelling events, develop local hazard and resilience tours, and learn from climate and other scientists about hazards and strategies for resilience. Ambassadors will also develop and lead programming for community residents. Simultaneously, residents will participate in active-learning education events, dialogue forums, arts-based activities, technology-based programs using NOAA assets, and hands-on preparedness activities. Each community will build a collective understanding of local hazards and mitigation strategies, and co-create a vision for resilience, represented in traveling visual artist-designed murals in the third year of the project. This education and shared vision will build community support for planning and resilience and help households in making better preparedness decisions. Dissemination through Science on a Sphere® and guidebooks will share the replicable model with other organizations and communities, extending the reach of the project. Close cooperation with NWS offices helps the project meet key goals of NOAA’s Education Strategic Plan, related to safety/preparedness and a science-informed society. Through public events and print materials, the project will showcase and interpret NOAA-related science and data with area residents, while creating collaborative learning opportunities for youth and community to interact with NOAA scientists. CREATE Resilience also engages youth and adults in preparing for hazards, and in multi-generational learning to improve community awareness and involvement in preparedness and mitigation.
Empowering Climate Change Resiliency through Education in an Underserved Community
Understanding climate change and its exacerbating effects on local environmental phenomena (e.g., increase in frequency and/or intensity of drought, ocean acidification, water shortages, degraded fisheries) and how to create resiliency is critical for underserved communities as they are disproportionately impacted by these hazards and yet, have the least capacity to actively respond. To address this issue, Ocean Discovery Institute and its partners will build understanding of climate change and impacts on local hazards, human-nature interactions, and individual and community capacity for resilience through place-based education in the underserved community of City Heights, San Diego, CA. This project, titled “Empowering Climate Change Resiliency through Education in an Underserved Community,” will involve a wide range of partners, including California Sea Grant, the California Nevada Climate Applications Program, NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego Canyonlands, RECON Environmental, Inc., and the San Diego Unified Port District. Project activities encompass the design, piloting, and implementation of multi-grade level, integrated curricula that incorporate hands-on student climate science research, innovative solution building, and teacher professional development. This project will serve 1,500 middle school students annually and is expected to increase students’ understanding of scientific concepts and processes and human-nature interactions, improve their ability to make science-informed decisions, and contribute to local resilience efforts.
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 served 84 K-12 educators and 1,080 Alaskan students in predominantly Alaska Native coastal villages. The project provided opportunities to build understandings of how climate change impacts local environments, increase overall climate literacy, and contribute to community resilience. Participants were primarily from the Chugach School District and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, both located in the southcentral region of Alaska. Students and teachers in the Aleutian Region School District, Nome City Schools, and the North Slope Borough School District (southwestern, northwestern, and northern Alaska, respectively) participated to a lesser extent in novel learning experiences made available through collaborative partnerships that emerged during the grant period. The project focused on three areas: teacher professional development, classroom instruction, and community engagement. Professional development included training in project-based learning and co-teaching/coaching sessions with master teachers. Classroom instruction engaged students in meaningful, innovative, place-based, project-based learning, and citizen-science activities focused on site and community needs. Students monitored their local environments, built or otherwise used ocean observation systems, collected data, and represented their new knowledge through presentations and art. Significant outcomes included student work on the relationship between phytoplankton and salmon conservation in Chenega Bay, a Living History Project that engaged community members and elders with traditional ecological knowledge in Tatitlek, and engagement in weather and environmental monitoring plans for the community of Whittier (potentially threatened by tsunamis generated by unstable slopes in a nearby fjord). Students shared active research regarding impacts and available resources. ELACS aligned with and supported NOAA’s educational mission by helping the target populations understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. This project promoted students’ environmental stewardship and a deeper understanding of a changing environment at both local and global levels. Throughout the four-year project, students and teachers worked with scientists and experts in education, climate change, and marine science using project-based learning approaches and educational technology. A notable (but not exhaustive) list of partners included researchers from NOAA’s Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the International Arctic Research Center (both at the University of Alaska Fairbanks), the Polar Science Center (University of Washington), Ground Truth Trekking, and the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies. Educational consultants included STEMisEd, Teknikio, NexMap, Build-A-Buoy, and EcoArt Expeditions. Corporate and non-profit partners included WeatherFlow, Inc., Batelle, Inc., Cook Inlet Tribal Council, and Alaska Science Teachers Association.
Climate Strong—Building Tribal Youth Leadership for Climate Resiliency
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in partnership with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, 1854 Treaty Authority, University of Wisconsin Extension’s G-WOW program, and Lake Superior Estuarine Research Reserve are proud to provide the Climate Strong-Building Tribal Youth Leadership for Climate Resiliency program. Our three-year project aims to increase the knowledge and readiness of middle to high school students to deal with the impacts of extreme weather and environmental hazards that face the Ojibwe Ceded Territories (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) and build capacity for increased climate change community resiliency curriculum in the classroom. Climate change impacts everyone, but for indigenous peoples it threatens culturally significant traditions, such as wild rice harvesting, that relies on sustainable fish, plant, and wildlife resources. These resources are critical for subsistence, spiritual and cultural needs, and treaty rights. Culturally relevant, place-based education is an important tool to involve students, in particular, underrepresented students, in developing critical thinking skills to assess the issue of community resiliency to extreme weather events and engaging in action to help resolve it. In order to achieve our objectives, we will aim our educational efforts toward youth first, as well as reaching the communities we serve. Each year, six residential youth camps (18 total) will be hosted within the Ojibwe Ceded Territories. Each three-day camp will be focused on investigating issues of community resiliency, adaption, and mitigation associated with increasing extreme weather events as well as natural environmental hazards. Camps will use place-based, experiential lessons to teach resiliency issues demonstrated by climate change effects on Ojibwe culturally important natural resources. Our project will train formal and informal educators throughout the Ojibwe Ceded Territories on how to use indigenous climate curriculum using tribal traditional ecological knowledge and NOAA assets to investigate community climate resiliency issues. Using both teacher “train the trainer” workshops and our camps, this project will create a network of formal K-12 and informal educators trained to become leaders in providing culturally relevant climate resiliency outreach to students. We will increase community resiliency literacy through six community outreach events each year (18 total) that will highlight resiliency issues facing our region and the research being done on landscape and ecological vulnerabilities through NOAA and tribal assets. Our goals are increased community resiliency literacy and adaptation of stewardship behaviors that reduce climate change impacts and increases adaption and mitigation behaviors by our participants. These behaviors will help increase stewardship practices reducing extreme weather impacts affecting the sustainability of culturally relevant resources, thereby preserving important cultural, spiritual, subsistence, and treaty rights practices.
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.