Walk the Talk: Teachers as Leaders in Climate Change Education

Monday, 15 December 2014
Janet Warburton1, Sarah Bartholow1 and Angela Larson2, (1)ARCUS, Fairbanks, AK, United States, (2)Goldstream Group, Fairbanks, AK, United States
The notion of teachers as leaders and communicators is not new but rather it has been limited in scope. Teachers have long served as team leaders, department chairs, and curriculum developers. But what happens when you go beyond these typical roles in professional development? Can teachers become lead communicators beyond the classroom? Can they become leaders of change on important topics like the climate?

For nearly a decade, PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating), funded by the National Science Foundation, has been teaming teachers with research projects in all fields of polar science. Teachers participate in hands-on field research experiences in the polar regions which focus heavily on climate change and climate science. Administrated by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, the goal of PolarTREC is to invigorate polar science education and understanding by bringing K-12 educators and polar researchers together.

The program fosters a teacher and researcher network, which accelerates the cross-pollination of knowledge in science practices, findings, and classroom implementation throughout disciplines. Evaluation data exposes a crucial dynamic that increases the potential for a successful climate change science campaign. Data indicates that teachers can tackle challenges such as reframing climate change science to better address the need for a particular campaign, as well as garnering the science project the necessary support through effective, authentic, and tangible communication efforts to policymakers, funders, students, and the public.

Researchers reported the value of explaining their science, in-situ, allowed them to reframe and rework the objectives of the science project to attain meaningful outcomes. More than half of the researchers specifically noted that one of the strengths of the PolarTREC project is its benefit to the scientific process. The researchers also viewed PolarTREC as an essential outreach activity and improved the public perception of their scientific endeavors.

This presentation will speak to the PolarTREC program's best practice and findings on improved polar science communications as well as how the teachers have become the lead communicators in this time of rapid global change across all disciplines.