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Project-Based Education to Develop Climate Change Literacy within New York State
Project Summary:  

Investigators from Clarkson University, Potsdam NY, are teaming up with researchers from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Albany NY, on an exciting new project funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The project builds on existing strong programs in energy literacy at both institutions.  Clarkson University has developed award-winning energy curricula for middle and high school students and is currently assessing the efficacy of project-based pedagogical approaches to increase energy literacy.  NYSERDA has an effective model for disseminating energy education programs to K-12 teachers from across the state.  

This project involves the creation and dissemination of new climate change curricular modules that are based on NASA data and models.  The activities are all based on the use of project-based learning experiences to integrate across STEM disciplines and engage a broader range of diverse learners. The project extends across all three NASA goals related to improved teaching and learning about global climate change, use of NASA data and models, and improving the preparation of undergraduate students for careers relevant to global climate change. Our three-tiered approach, described below, is impacting audiences ranging from middle and high school students to college students to STEM teachers.   

  1. Undergraduate class: A new class, “Global Climate Change:  Science, Engineering, and Policy,” was developed specifically for engineering students at Clarkson University. This class is providing undergraduates and graduate students from all engineering disciplines with the basic understanding of the science of climate change through the use of NASA data and models. 

  2. Summer institute for curricular module development: Middle school STEM and high school earth and environmental science teachers from across New York are developing project-based learning experiences and lessons that highlight and integrate NASA earth observation system data and models.  In the summer 2010 workshop, teachers created project-based modules at the appropriate level for their students.  These modules are being piloted by participating teachers during the 2010-2011 academic year.  Revised modules will be adapted for the second summer institute, in which experienced teachers will assist with training and education of a larger group of teachers. 

  3. State-wide dissemination of climate change modules:  Using a training and dissemination model developed by NYSERDA, the modules will be disseminated through a state-wide Climate Change Conference for Teachers, regional workshops, one-day workshops, and nationally/internationally through on-line tutorials. 

Our assessment plan includes metrics for the numbers and types of students and teachers impacted as well as measurement of the change in STEM attitudes and climate literacy.  We are developing a Climate Literacy Assessment Survey, which will provide a quantitative measure of students’ climate literacy based on the guidelines established in the Essential Principles of Climate Science Literacy, described fully in the Climate Literacy Handbook (McCaffrey, 2009) and summarized in the booklet  Climate Literacy:  The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences (US Global Change Research Program/Climate Change Science Program; March 2009).    

The undergraduate class and components of the teacher workshops will continue beyond the three years of the proposed project.  Our project will include evaluation and dissemination of these modules across the state through teacher training, project evaluation, and distribution to teachers around the country and the world through the World Wide Web.  
Tchr wrkshp2010 classrm work 1