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.
Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement (PLACE)
Public Libraries Advancing Community Engagement: Environmental Literacy Through Climate Change Discussions (PLACE) is a nationally disseminated, locally-based program that engages adults in geographic-specific discussions and critical thinking about resilient responses to environmental changes and extreme weather events, through programs in their local public libraries. Historically, opportunities to increase adults’ environmental literacy have typically been available only through established science centers, and/or tended to target citizens who are already interested in environmental topics and issues. While science center hosted events and exhibits are important, reaching new and underserved audiences is imperative. PLACE engages new audiences — in their own libraries and with their own communities — by discussing their challenges, threats and helping their communities prepare for and respond to climate change and extreme weather events. PLACE will help rural and under-resourced communities build resilience to their region's’ unique vulnerabilities and threats through the following: (1) Select 50 rural and under-resourced libraries across the United States, (2) Create environmental literacy materials for library programs and professional development materials for librarians, (3) Provide professional development to participating librarians, developing their environmental literacy and fostering the use of NOAA assets for library patron services, (4) Assist libraries in finding and partnering with NOAA scientists, (5) Support libraries implementing a three-part, environmental literacy book/video/discussion program series for adults, complemented by a curated collection of NOAA assets that align with each program’s topic, and (6) Perform a summative evaluation of the impact and outcomes of the program. The project has a sustainability plan and a network in place to support the activities in an ongoing, national model for years beyond the initial project funding. PLACE leverages the model and resources of an earlier, similar program, Pushing the Limits (funded by the National Science Foundation), which demonstrated significant success in raising adults’ general science literacy in rural libraries across the United States. The project is being created, disseminated and evaluated through a partnership of The Califa Group (a California library consortium) and the National Weather Service, working in tandem with NOAA’s Office of Education.
Recharge the Rain: Community Resilience through STEM Education
Recharge the Rain moves sixth through twelfth grade teachers, students and the public through a continuum from awareness, to knowledge gain, to conceptual understanding, to action; building community resiliency to hazards associated with increased temperatures, drought and flooding in Arizona. Watershed Management Group with Arizona Project WET will utilize NOAA assets and experts from the National Weather Service and Climate Assessment for the Southwest (CLIMAS) to inform citizens and galvanize their commitment to building a community, resilient to the effects of a warming climate. Project activities will be informed by Pima County’s hazard mitigation plan and planning tools related to preparing for and responding to flooding and extreme heat. Starting January 2017, this four-year project will 1) develop curriculum with Tucson-area teachers that incorporates systems-thinking and increases understanding of earth systems, weather and climate, and the engineering design of rainwater harvesting systems 2) immerse students in a curricular unit that results in the implementation of 8 teacher/student-led schoolyard water harvesting projects, 3) train community docents in water harvesting practices and citizen-science data collection, 4) involve Tucson community members in water harvesting principles through project implementation workshops, special events, and tours, and 5) expand program to incorporate curriculum use in Phoenix-area teachers’ classrooms and 6) finalize a replicable model for other communities facing similar threats. Environmental and community resiliency depends upon an informed society to make the best social, economic, and environmental decisions. This idea is not only at the core of NOAA’s mission, but is echoed in the programs provided by Watershed Management Group and Arizona Project WET.
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.