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NSF grant supports Maryland-Delaware climate change education partnership

NSF grant supports Maryland-Delaware climate change education partnership

The National Science Foundation has announced it will award $999,949 to the University of Delaware and its partners the University System of Maryland, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), and the University of Maryland to establish a climate change education partnership.

The Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education, Assessment, and Research (MADE-CLEAR) program will build partnerships among the two states' research and teaching universities, public schools, federal agencies, and public and private sectors with the goal of increasing the adoption of educational programs and resources related to the science of climate change and its impacts. The initiative is one of 15 projects to receive NSF funding to build such coordinated networks.

“This project is about priming the pipeline for the future in terms of scientists and engineers while also creating an educated public,” said Nancy Targett, dean of UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Joining Targett to head up the project is UMCES President Donald Boesch, the project's principal investigator; Nancy Shapiro, associate vice chancellor of the University System of Maryland; and Nancy Brickhouse, professor and deputy dean of UD's College of Education and Human Development.

MADE-CLEAR will develop innovative climate change curricula for pre-school through higher education, provide new learning opportunities for teachers that will lead to climate change education expertise, and promote outreach using innovative technology and communication methods to build public understanding of climate change.

Climate science is complex and interdisciplinary, and therefore not an easy subject to teach. MADE-CLEAR will provide tools to help teachers and communities deal with that.

“K-12 education is structured around the traditional science disciplines -- important scientific challenges like climate change are not because they are inherently interdisciplinary,” Brickhouse said. “This grant is important because it includes practitioners in the K-12 system in ways that should enable us to integrate climate change education into schools in ways that are sustainable.”

Additionally, rather than advocating for specific behavior changes, the emphasis will be on understanding the science of climate change and the nature of its impacts.

“At a time of accelerating change and complexity, it is no longer adequate to provide answers to one set of problems, when we know there are problems or challenges that we cannot even imagine around the next corner,” Shapiro said. “Our best shot is to educate our children and youth with the critical thinking tools and knowledge to be able to solve problems and make critical decisions based on new evidence.”

The two-year award supports an initial strategic planning period in which the group will reach out to a broad array of stakeholders and take stock of resources. Full implementation of the plan is expected to take place beginning in fiscal year 2012.

The project is a natural outgrowth of Maryland's and Delaware's shared regional climate and education environments, the organizers said, pointing to several initiatives including Maryland's Commission on Climate Change and Delaware's strong focus on offshore wind power development.

“In both states there's a lot of momentum around climate change issues and there's a lot of outreach and initiatives, including Maryland's and Delaware's Race to the Top grants,” Targett said, “all of which we think can be synergistic with something like this.”

Article by Elizabeth Boyle