Environmental Literacy for Alaskan Climate Stewards (ELACS)
The Environmental Literacy for Alaska Climate Stewards (ELACS) project involves K-12 Alaskan students from the Chugach School District and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in studies and activities to increase environmental and climate literacy and ultimately community resilience. Throughout the four-year project, students and teachers will work with scientists and experts from their communities, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Local Environmental Observer Network, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Build A Buoy Project, and Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Earth Program. Rural Alaskan students live in some of the most vulnerable regions of the planet, areas that are highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the nation, bringing widespread impacts. Sea ice is rapidly receding, and glaciers are shrinking. Thawing permafrost is leading to more wildfire and affecting infrastructure and wildlife habitat. Rising ocean temperatures and acidification will alter valuable marine fisheries. The objectives of the Environmental Literacy for Alaskan Climate Stewards project are to provide rural, K-12 Alaska students and teachers in Alaskan Native villages with knowledge and opportunities that will help build understanding of local climate change impacts and to increase overall climate literacy and contribute to community resilience. Students and teachers will participate in first-hand experiences of environmental monitoring, data sampling through a locally relevant citizen science project, and by building ocean observation systems. The project has four main action and outcome areas: Professional development and monthly ongoing project support – including school-site delivery and workshops at the NOAA Lab facilities in Kachemak Bay, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Anchorage. Classroom instruction that engages the students in meaningful, innovative, place-based, project-based learning, and citizen science activities geared around site and community needs. Community Engagement – which includes interviews with community members, involvement in community-based environmental monitoring, and through annual student events. Application of Knowledge – Students will discuss components of the Weather and Climate Tool-Kit with community members, elders, and leaders, focusing on climate-related problems, and action planning for mitigation and adaptation. Students can share active research regarding impacts and available resources. This project will be orchestrated through the Chugach School District, which serves rural students from all over the state of Alaska through their Voyages residential, two-week phase programs, as well as the three Prince William Sound villages of Chenega Bay, Whittier, and Tatitlek, and an extensive home school services program. The coastal, native Alaskan villages of Seldovia, Port Graham, Tyonek, and Nanwalek across Kachemak Bay, in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will be included in this project. ELACS directly connects to NOAA’s educational mission, as it will help the target population understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts through project objectives and activities. This project will promote the students’ stewardship and deeper understanding of their environment and the changes happening at a local and global level.
From Mt. Rainier to the Pacific Coast: Fostering Resilient Climate Leaders, Communities and Coastal Ecosystems
Nisqually River Foundation with partners (South Sound GREEN, Chehalis Basin Education Consortium, and Mount Rainier Institute) with support from NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region implemented their project, “From Mt. Rainier to the Pacific Coast: Fostering Resilient Climate Leaders, Communities and Coastal Ecosystems,” over 3 years, from 2016-2018. Our region faces the climate change threats of sea level rise, receding glaciers, extreme weather/flooding, ocean acidification and impacts on humans and important local resources, such as surface and groundwater, salmon, forests, and shellfish. Together we engaged more than 120 teachers and their 3,000+ students from the Nisqually, South Puget Sound and Chehalis watersheds to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. We held three Summer Teachers Institutes to bring teachers connect teachers with local science experts in climate change impacts in the Pacific Northwest. Our 2017 Institute was held in partnership with Mount Rainier Institute, who also hosted Climate Resilient Youth Leadership Programs for 350 12-18-year olds. Participants generated and participated in Community Resilience Action Projects to conserve local ecosystems and increase resiliency in their communities to extreme weather events and changing climate. These projects included: riparian habitat restoration in the Nisqually, Chehalis, and Deschutes basins; creating recycling and composting programs on school campuses; eliminating Styrofoam from school cafeterias; creating a Migration Parade event to explore climate impacts on migratory species; the “Pick a DOT- Do One Thing - What’s your thing?” on-line videos; and the creation of high-impact environmental education art installations, to name a handful. Students also monitored local stream flows, temperatures, and water quality, building on a previous Targeted Watershed Grant from the EPA and a data set that goes back to 1992. NOAA’s mission of Service was supported as teachers and students shared their knowledge in their classrooms, with school districts, at community meetings, and through social media. NOAA assets used included the NW Marine Fisheries staff, Data in the Classroom, CoCoRaHS, NOAA-NASA Cloud Watcher Chart, NOAA’s Climate Literacy Principles, Beat the Uncertainty game, Game of Floods, Thermal Expansion label, the Marine Mammals of the US West Coast, and more. Other local contributing partners include the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Squaxin Tribe, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Nisqually Land Trust, Thurston Conservation District and Capital Region Educational Service District 113.