Climate Literacy Network

''Meeting the Urgent Need for Climate Literacy''

The Climate Literacy Network is an informal group of scientists, educators, policy makers, community leaders, students, and citizens engaged in fostering Climate Literacy in the US and abroad.

As the world confronts the reality of global climate change, education has emerged as a crucial issue. An informed public understands the natural and human factors that affect climate, comprehends the potential large-scale impacts of climate change and considers responsibly the personal and societal choices that might help reduce the rate and magnitude of climate change and lead to resilient communities and a sustainable world. This requires a multi-faceted approach to climate education in schools, museums, web, public events and other venues, with the support and direct involvement of educators and the climate research community.

The Climate Literacy Network provides a forum for organizations, agencies and individuals to collaborate for climate education. Members share ideas, coordinate efforts, promote policy reform, develop learning resources and support integration of climate literacy into formal and informal education venues. Initiatives of the Climate Literacy Network (CLN) feature accurate scientific information, engaging learning experiences, and multiple pathways to reach broad and diverse audiences, in both formal and informal venues.

CLN uses the widely-endorsed Climate Literacy Framework as its conceptual starting point. Developed and endorsed by NOAA, NASA, NSF and a distinguished group of scientists and educators, this Framework defines a set of essential principles and scientific thinking skills that a climate literate person should understand. In this way, it provides a common set of learning goals that are scientifically accurate and pedagogically sound. The Framework has now also been endorsed by American Meteorological Society, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Association of Science and Technology Centers, GLOBE, ESIP Federation, North American Association for Environmental Education and numerous other organizations.

Many of the climate literacy learning goals align well with national and state standards. They include basic concepts of regional and global climate systems, the dynamics and interconnections of the components of the Earth system, natural climate cycles, and the evidence for and implications of human-induced climate change. The learning goals also include essential skills of scientific thinking, creative problem-solving, use of modern technologies of Earth exploration, insights from the space-age perspective and forecasting climate trends based on global modeling.

Yet climate literacy is not just another educational topic – it is one of the crucial challenges of our times. A variety of organizations have embraced this challenge, set it as a priority, developed resources for climate literacy and promoted their use in schools, museums and on the web. While these efforts are laudable, there was no coordination of these efforts nor a community-wide process to set over-arching goals and strategies, identify needs and promote a more cohesive vision and set of implementation plans. Hence, these organizations established the Climate Literacy Network. Launched in April 2007, CLN has grown dramatically, with over 20 member organizations, vigorous and collaborative communications, and some bold and ambitious plans appropriate to the urgency of the need for climate literacy.

CLN is a leadership organization, providing venues for people in leadership roles in key organizations to share their ideas, plans, resources and action items. CLN uses weekly telecons, focused meetings, a collaborative web site and other electronic communications to share and coordinate these initiatives. CLN also monitors state, national and global policies regarding climate and climate education, and advocates for policies and funding in support of climate literacy. (Federal agencies in CLN do not participate in this advocacy.)

CLN is also an action organization, launching or coordinating important initiatives to achieve large-scale climate literacy in the target populations. As detailed below, these initiatives include work with states to infuse climate literacy into their science standards, conducting teacher professional development, establishing a web-based guide to curriculum resources, and developing new curriculum materials that embody the content and skills in the Climate Literacy Framework. Recognizing the importance also of climate literacy in the wider population, CLN will also develop materials and activities suitable for informal venues, such as workplaces, youth clubs, etc.

The Climate Literacy Network has defined several over-arching goals:

  • encourage adoption of climate literacy goals in state education standards - promote educational initiatives at local, state, national and global levels,
  • develop and disseminate strong curriculum materials,
  • provide professional development for teachers and other educators,
  • identify appropriate informal education populations,
  • tailor, develop, disseminate, and apply materials for informal education,
  • evaluate and refine educational materials and practices,
  • share best practice ideas and resources, and
  • enable collaborations among scientists, educators, community leaders & policy-makers to achieve these goals

To achieve these goals, CLN has developed plans for several initiatives for immediate action. Some of this work is already underway by member organizations. Others are in planning and development phases, and will require funding for their launch and large-scale implementation. Hence, CLN will also launch fund-raising campaigns to support this work. This will include proposals to federal and state agencies, as well as private funding from corporations, foundations and individuals who recognize the crucial importance of climate literacy.

Web-based Resource Clearinghouse CLN will prepare a guide to existing curriculum and teacher professional development resources that are available for free or at low cost, via the web. These include student activity guides, climate related data resources, background information, lesson plans and links to organizations that develop or disseminate these resources. CLN educators and scientists will review these resources and select those that are both pedagogically sound and scientifically accurate.

Curriculum Research and Development Where gaps exist in available learning resources, CLN will research and develop innovative new curricula. Many of these will feature cutting-edge technologies that help students explore Earth as a dynamic system, visualize Earth's processes, and understand both natural and anthropogenic climate change. These innovations relate closely to fundamental reforms in Earth and space science and environmental education that have been underway for the past several years. CLN will similarly develop or adapt resources for use in informal venues such as museums and the web.

Climate Corps Here CLN will focus on outreach in formal education, public awareness and project-oriented activism. For instance in the area of formal education, using a "train-the-trainer" model, the Climate Corps will develop a national cadre of committed experts in climate science and education to provide training and support for teachers who want to infuse climate literacy into their classrooms. This effort will operate on a regional basis, with local training using a national model adapted to local needs. In the area of projects and public awareness, the Climate Corps will seek to establish ongoing local chapters that can coordinate, support, initiate and influence local and regional activities and initiatives, as well as cross-pollinate amongst communities through internal sharing of ideas and experience.

State and National Science Standards A growing number of states have agreed to review their science education standards and assessments, to see how they align with the Climate Literacy Framework and will consider changing them to better support the content and skills in the framework. CLN will work directly with these states to support this review and revision process, and to share success stories across these states. This effort aims eventually to reach all fifty states.

International Connections While the initial activities focus on the US, this is a global challenge. There are many important initiatives taking place throughout the world, and CLN will pursue collaborative discussions, coordination of efforts, and sharing of resources. CLN will also participate in global learning and action programs, such as GLOBE and other international educational learning and action programs.

Virtual Conference To expand its reach, build creative ideas and deepen its impact, CLN will conduct a national "virtual conference" on Climate Literacy. With regional meetings and telecommunications for multi-site dialogue, the virtual conference will engage scientists, educators and policy-makers in the challenges of large-scale climate literacy, encourage creative problem-solving, expand the membership of CLN, and promote innovative collaborations among the participants, with impacts extending well beyond the conference.

Fund-raising CampaignTo achieve these goals, CLN will launch a multi-faceted fund-raising campaign. This will include proposals to state governments and federal agencies such as NSF, NOAA, NASA, and USDE. It will also include solicitation of support from individuals, foundations and businesses that share CLN's commitment to a climate literate public, and long-term change in global policies and actions to avert and respond to global warming.

Vibrant Community The Climate Literacy Network serves an essential function – building a broad national and scientifically authoritative network to support large-scale climate literacy. The member organizations join to support their own efforts, and to participate in a larger community. CLN has become a vibrant community to meet those needs, with weekly telecons, an active internal web-site, and creativity and enthusiasm for the initiatives described here. This vibrant community meets real needs, so it will continue to grow and serve its essential function.

For more information, contact: Dr. Tamara Ledley at TERC, Cambridge, Mass. (Tamara_Ledley at terc dot edu).