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.