CCEP II - Making Global Climate Science Local: Implementing an Effective Model to Educate Key Influentials and Community Leaders

Investigator: Mica B. Estrada, PhD
Sponsor: University of San Diego

Location(s): United States


This Phase II Climate Change Education Partnership project is developing a new model for educating Key Influentials (high profile, decision-makers and leaders) and the general public in the San Diego, California region about climate science. The project builds on a Phase I strategic planning effort to empirically assess the depth and gaps of knowledge about climate science in the San Diego general public and among Key Influentials (KI). These findings have informed the 5-year implementation plan for Phase II and have provided the evidence basis for the development of a multidisciplinary climate literacy model for regional KI community leaders. A robust suite of integrated activities is being implemented that will (1) develop climate science education resources applicable to adult audiences in informal settings, (2) educate Key Influentials and their communities using these resources, (3) assess the effectiveness of these resources and the application of innovative educational methods for learning, and (4) facilitate replication of the process for use in other regions. In particular, Phase II activities are investigating three different educational roles for KIs: (1) Key Influentials being served as the target audience of climate science education; (2) Key Influentials being trained as knowledgeable messengers to deliver locally-relevant information about climate science and potential impacts to other KIs and their communities; and, (3) Key Influentials serving as the educational portal to their constituents and stakeholders. Each set of activities reflects relevant learning science theory and contemporary methods of dissemination to effectively communicate regional climate observations, models and impacts. Both the process of working with KIs and the whole suite of activities form the core of a replicable model that can be exported to other regions across the country. This project is expected to significantly advance our knowledge and understanding of how to educate community leaders and non-K-16 community members about locally relevant, cutting-edge climate science. The suite of educational activities will have broad impacts by working with Key Influentials as the intended audience of activities, as educators themselves, and as portals to much larger audiences, including Native American tribes in San Diego County, regional planners, elected officials, and the local utility. Climate scientists, environmental educators and energy analysts are working together with learning scientists and communications specialists to develop educational resources for use in non-traditional venues, such as small and medium sized forums, climate tours, personal homes, and through social media. Learning science specialists are using rigorous research designs to assess the impacts of the educational activities and test hypothesized relationships between education and a variety of latent and observable outcomes. The results are expected to provide implementation guidelines and assessment tools that can be disseminated to other communities seeking to replicate this approach by the end of the 5th year. This is a catalytic project that will significantly increase scientific, technological and educational understanding and provide relevant science knowledge and evidence-based approaches for responding to climate change, thereby contributing to informed decision-making.This project is one of six Phase II projects being funded through the Climate Change Education Partnership (CCEP) program. The CCEP program was developed as part of the NSF Climate Change Education program, established through Congressional appropriations in FY 2009. The CCEP program is a one-time, dedicated NSF effort to establish a coordinated national network of regionally- or thematically-based partnerships devoted to increasing the adoption of effective, high quality educational programs and resources related to the science of climate change and its impacts. The CCEP portfolio encompasses a major interdisciplinary research and development effort designed to promote deeper understanding of, and engagement with, climate system science and the impacts of climate change on natural and human systems. The vision of this program is a scientifically literate society that can effectively weigh the evidence regarding global climate change as it confronts the challenges ahead, while preparing the innovative scientific and technical workforce to advance our knowledge of human-climate interactions and develop approaches for a sustainable, prosperous future. Each CCEP is required to incorporate innovative collaborations among expertise of climate scientists, learning scientists, and education practitioners in either formal or informal learning environments to research, design, and test new models and strategies for effective teaching and learning about climate science. With its focus on interdisciplinary approaches and transformative scales of impact, the CCEP program occupies a unique and complementary niche in the portfolio of Federal investments related to climate science education and workforce development.