Empowering Pre-College Students To Engage In Climate Change Solutions

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Dana Brown Haine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
Developing and implementing solutions to environmental challenges, such as climate change, depend upon the cultivation of STEM knowledge and skills among today’s youth. Furthermore, STEM instruction enhances learning by providing tools to investigate and analyze environmental issues, making the issue real and tangible to students. That said, educators engaged in the climate literacy movement are aware that possession of knowledge about Earth’s climate and the causes and consequences of climate change is not sufficient to empower individuals to contribute to solutions that promote a sustainable future. By framing the issue of climate change in the context of energy, by utilizing STEM instructional strategies and by showcasing scientists and others working on solutions to address climate change, the Climate Leadership and Energy Awareness Program (Climate LEAP) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill is cultivating a network of youth who are not only informed about society’s use of energy and the implication for Earth’s climate but also empowered to be part of the solution as society shifts to a low carbon economy.

During this year-long science enrichment program, 9th-12thgraders learn about our fossil fuel based economy, meet scientists who are working to expand the use of renewable energy sources, and develop communication and leadership skills. Experienced educators with UNC’s Institute for the Environment, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and the Alliance for Climate Education partner with scientists to implement Climate LEAP.

In addition to increasing knowledge of climate science and of the solutions proposed to address climate change, program participants are invited to engage members of their community through implementation of a solutions-oriented community outreach project. Now in its fifth year, 168 students have completed Climate LEAP, with approximately 2/3 completing at least one community outreach project. A survey of program alumni indicated that 90% of respondents were motivated by the program to make at least one behavior change to conserve energy in their daily life.

This session will include a description of the program evaluation plan, which includes assessment of student learning..