Science Center Public Forums: Community Engagement for Environmental Literacy, Improved Resilience, and Decision-Making
By engaging diverse publics in immersive and deliberative learning forums, this three-year project will use NOAA data and expertise to strengthen community resilience and decision-making around a variety of climate and weather-related hazards across the United States. Led by Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes and the Museum of Science Boston, the project will develop citizen forums hosted by regional science centers to create a new, replicable model for learning and engagement. These forums, to be hosted initially in Boston and Phoenix and then expanded to an additional six sites around the U.S., will facilitate public deliberation on real-world issues of concern to local communities, including rising sea levels, extreme precipitation, heat waves, and drought. The forums will identify and clarify citizen values and perspectives while creating stakeholder networks in support of local resilience measures. The forum materials developed in collaboration with NOAA will foster better understanding of environmental changes and best practices for improving community resiliency, and will create a suite of materials and case studies adaptable for use by science centers, teachers, and students. With regional science centers bringing together the public, scientific experts, and local officials, the project will create resilience-centered partnerships and a framework for learning and engagement that can be replicated nationwide.
Preparing Norfolk Area Students for America’s Second Highest Sea Level Rise
Children in the Norfolk, Va., area will inherit the highest sea level rise on the East Coast, second to New Orleans. In response, the non-profit Elizabeth River Project educated 25,333 students, 2,586 teachers, 63 Youth Resilience Leaders and 5 NEW River Ambassadors through a high school Youth Conservation Intern program for at-risk students. In addition, 180 River Star Schools and 13 new Resilient River Star Schools were recognized for implementing environmental projects addressing restoration, conservation, flooding and reducing their carbon footprint. The Elizabeth River Project prepared one of the first comprehensive youth education programs on resilience on this coast. The Elizabeth River Project, working since 1993 to restore the environmental health of the urban Elizabeth River, deployed its Dominion Energy Learning Barge, “America’s Greenest Vessel,” and its new urban park, Paradise Creek Nature Park, to empower K-12 students over three years to become informed decision makers and environmental stewards, prepared to adapt to rising seas. The project reached under-served schools in Norfolk and adjoining Portsmouth, Virginia. The lead science partner was Old Dominion University, on the forefront of climate change research and the University of Virginia for evaluation of education programs. Other partners included the Chrysler Museum of Art, ground zero for street flooding that has become routine in Norfolk. Elizabeth River Project’s first Youth Resilient Strategy Resilient Youth – South Hampton Roads A Pioneer Strategy of Hope and Action to Prepare Those Who Will Inherit Rising Seas. This plan is the first in America to call on educators, both in our schools and in the community, to help our youth prepare to inherit these extraordinary and increasing challenges. The youth plan will complement Norfolk Resilient City, a call to adults to prepare for rising seas and related challenges with a vision for our children to become hopeful, resilient leaders who innovate and persevere to safeguard our community as our lives change with a changing environment. The Elizabeth River Project will also serve as the Clearing House for education resources, activities and curriculum related to resilience as we launch a Youth Resilient Educators page at www.elizabethriver.org. Additional partners included: City of Norfolk Resilience Office, Norfolk and Portsmouth Public Schools, Wetland Watch and Hampton Roads Sanitation District.
Science on a Sphere – Earth Systems Display Center at Science Museum of Virginia
The Science Museum of Virginia has assembled a unique team of federal, state, and private institutions to create The Earth System Display Center based on the Science on a Sphere (SOS) platform. The goal of the Center is to capture the visitor's attention and spur interest in climate change literacy and how impacts on a local scale can have an aggregate effect globally. Of particular significance are a docent training program to stimulate and facilitate visitor interaction with the Sphere through dialogue, and formative and summative evaluation of the impact of docent led Sphere experiences with the general public. SOS will anchor a new data display center for examining global impacts of energy consumption, stormwater management, agriculture practices, and climate change - tying together Earth system themes from four major projects now underway at the Science Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Use of NOAA data sets and the Sphere as a dynamic presentation tools coupled with flatscreens will enable the conveyance of local and statewide trends and issues into a compelling global context.
Learn, Prepare, Act – Resilient Citizens Make Resilient Communities
The Science Museum of Virginia’s three-year informal climate change resilience education project, “Your Actions Matter: Resilient Citizens Make Resilient Communities,” yielded three overarching lessons learned: 1) understand and use organizational strengths and limitations to advance resilience education, 2) Arts and Humanities are critical for resilience education, and 3) localize the story of climate change and its solutions. Our programming relied on planning and executing two, 5-week “Climate Connections” Lecture Series featuring national climate science researchers, three annual “Prepareathon” events to connect communities with emergency management personnel and services (as well as local meteorologists and climate scientists), two community-focused workshops to engage guests in building resilience to extreme precipitation and urban heat, producing dozens of radio and video programs for public dissemination of climate science concepts, hosting several “Extreme Event Challenge” facilitations for guests to assume manager roles in a crisis, designed numerous scripts and dataset playlists for daily SOS presentations, production of a large format film about cosmic perspectives on climate change, performed theatrical scripts of human sides of climate impacts, leveraged artistic expression and sonification of climate science datasets in public events and exhibits, and undertook the first citizen science climate change campaign in the Museum’s history. Our audiences regularly stretched from preschool learners to retirement-aged individuals, served many thousands from formal education and professional organizations, and that our programming regularly attracted audiences from government agencies, policymakers, fine arts institutions, and urban planners. Our audience reach easily surpassed 1.2 million people locally, nationally, and internationally, with most from metro-Richmond, Virginia. Based on formative evaluation, our substantial restructuring of our initially proposed programming model yielded high-impact educational outcomes. “Ready Row Homes: Preparing for a Hotter, Wetter Virginia” experience achieved highest educational impact of communicating both climate change science and individual resilience behaviors. Our SOS facilitations and Large Format Film, Cosmic Climate Cookbook, performed highly in communicating climate science, but relatively limited in resilience behavior. Extreme Event Challenge has high impact for communicating resilience strategies, but not as well in communicating climate science. Our informative climate science Lecture Series were comparatively limited in communicating resilience. This array of programming successes was greatly improved by collaborations with project partners: WCVE disseminated audio and video programs; George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication guided our storytelling techniques for SOS; NOAA assets (i.e., NWS, Chesapeake Bay Office, SOS Network) contributed information and speakers; Randi Korn & Associates provided evaluation; Resilient Virginia marketed programs and designed workshops; and Virginia Institute of Marine Science provided significant expertise through speakers and datasets. New, substantial project partners included Groundwork RVA (co-developed “Throwing Shade in RVA” teen program and participated in urban heat island citizen science projects); Alliance for Chesapeake Bay (provided free rain barrels and workshop educational content); Richmond City’s Department of Planning Review and Sustainability Office coordinated dissemination of outreach materials and executed urban heat island citizen science project; and Franklin Institute (helped guide development of a Virginia-specific facilitation of Ready Row Home hands-on experiences).