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.
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).
Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE)
The goal of Community Resilience Informed by Science and Experience (C-RISE) was to build the capacity of coastal communities to support resiliency planning and adaptation actions. To accomplish this the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) worked with an advisory group including representatives from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the cities of Portland and South Portland, Greater Portland Council of Governments, New England Environmental Finance Center, and Axiom Technologies to develop public programming that provided participants with knowledge of and access to local sea level rise data. This program, "Preparing Coastal Communities for Sea Level Rise" is a community education event that built participant knowledge in sea level rise science, future projections, and local impacts. Through visual presentations and facilitated discussions, GMRI brought regional relevancy to global climate data using local history and case studies of past flooding events. Using technology and peer discussions, GMRI staff provided participants with access to interactive data sets and maps that visualized the impacts of sea level rise and weather events on community resources like roads, parks, hospitals, schools, and other valued assets—and how climate projections will increase these impacts over time. Over the course of this grant, GMRI staff facilitated over 60 community events in over 30 coastal communities in Maine, reaching over 2,000 individuals. While many of the participants had heard about sea level rise and storm surge prior to this program, few had internalized what this meant for their own communities. Post-event surveys indicated that participants discussed flooding issues with their families, friends, and neighbors, further examined local sea level rise maps, and engaged with community decision-makers about resiliency planning. GMRI believes that strong and informed representation of citizens is vital to addressing climate challenges and resiliency actions. We continue to leverage this work through various projects as we collaborate with coastal communities to provide them with knowledge, skills, and tools needed to develop community-focused resilience plans for sea level rise.