Dr. Lin Chambers is Project Scientist in the Innovations in Global Climate Change Education program. The congressionally mandated project, initiated in 2008, awards grants to institutions that educate communities about climate science. The group develops resources to help others better understand and explain the causes and effects of climate change.
NASA Tech Briefs: What is the Innovations in Global Climate Change Education Project?
Dr. Lin Chambers: This is a project that NASA initiated in 2008. For three years, we’ve been operating as a congressionally mandated project in global climate change education. This year we became the Innovations in Global Climate Change Education [previously known as the Global Climate Change Education (GCCE) Initiative] as part of the NASA budget, under the Minority University Research and Education Program. Overall, we’re trying to achieve two major things with this project: climate literacy in the broad public, including students, and preparing people for employment in fields that relate to climate and climate change.
NTB: What is your specific role as Project Scientist?
Dr. Chambers: Basically all the funding that we had was put out in the form of grants or property agreements to universities, nonprofit organizations, and school districts. So I provide the sort of direction, the focus for that solicitation, and then try to ensure in the review process that we are making effective use of NASA content in the project. That’s obviously the whole point for NASA funding: to get some of the NASA information out there in these projects.
NTB: How does the award/project process work?
Dr. Chambers: Starting this year, proposers are one of 4 types: minority serving institutions (HBCUs, HSIs, and tribal colleges), community colleges, school districts, and non-profit organizations serving minority communities. In previous years, majority education institutions could also apply. All projects are focused on climate change education, so they all must include some aspect of NASA climate science, whether it’s using NASA data, models, simulations, and resources. We do not expect them to break new ground in climate science, but to make progress on educating various communities about what we already know about climate science.
Our projects address climate science education in a variety of ways. Some focus on undergraduates, and may develop new courses for them, or involve them in research experiences. Some focus on teachers and do professional development workshops or research experiences for them. Some focus on K-12 students.
NTB: What do you think needs to be done the most to improve climate science education, and what are the effective ways that you’ve seen of teaching the public?
Dr. Chambers: I don’t know have any kind of definitive answer, but I think that one thing is just to have climate science education. As I mentioned, a lot of people learn about the weather when they’re in elementary school, and that’s basically it. They don’t even get exposed to the concept of climate. So we have currently 57 projects, with another 14 about to start, that are trying different approaches to this.
I would say that we haven’t come to any conclusions, really none of our projects are done, but some of the things that we’ve seen so far that seem to work are projects that really leverage local projects and local connections. So going back, looking at the history of your own area. We’ve had some projects that interview elders, and people who’ve been in that area for 20-30 years or more, and can give their perspective of what may have changed. That’s one approach. There are probably lots of other approaches, and hopefully in the next couple of years, we’ll know a little bit more about good ones.