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NASA Innovations in Climate Education (NICE) Project

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) NICE (NASA Innovations in Climate Education) program is designed to improve the quality of the nation's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and enhance students' and teachers' literacy about global climate and Earth system change from elementary grades to lifelong learners. Since 2008 NASA has awarded 71 grants to organizations across the United States with the goals of strengthening the skills of teachers and providing innovative science research and learning opportunities for students.

In 2010 the University of Idaho received a 3-year NICE grant titled "Collaborative Development of a Climate Change Curriculum for Classrooms in the Intermountain West." This 3-year project, initiated in 2011, is delivered by the UI Environmental Science Program and the College of Education.

Project Overview

Although some of the most profound effects of anthropogenic climate change are apparent in the Intermountain West, the public, including Native peoples of this region, are largely uninformed about the science and impacts of climate change. In order to address this systemic lack of understanding of the science of climate change, we are creating a program composed of three initiatives for collaborative teacher training and curriculum development. Teacher and student understanding of the NOAA standards for climate science literacy will be the primary learning objectives of this project, and these standards will be used for evidence-based evaluation. The management team for this project includes experts in climate, social, and education sciences.

Initiative I: Faculty of select school districts in northern Idaho, northeastern Washington, Boise, and the Pocatello region will be engaged in the collaborative development of teaching/learning modules and a design for teacher training in climate change science. Graduate students and experts will travel to workshops at these schools where teachers will be included as members of module development teams. The curriculum will explicitly include cultural and resource issues relevant to the local communities and to students of the Spokane, Nez Perce, Coeur d¿Alene, and Shoshone-Bannock tribes.

Initiative II: The curriculum created in the first initiative of the program will be adapted for use in distance learning environments and distributed throughout the secondary school systems of Idaho in collaboration with the state-sponsored Idaho Digital Learning Academy and the Idaho Education Network. The project will create an Internet community where teachers learn from each other and exchange teaching tools.

Initiative III: The curriculum components from Initiatives I & II will be adapted for use in college freshman-level instruction, and instructors from regional community and tribal colleges will be trained at workshops in climate change science and instruction. NASA Idaho Space Grant will co-sponsor these workshops.

Curricular materials will be designed to meet state and national standards for STEM education, and teachers and students will be assessed for their understanding of standards for climate science literacy. Various NASA products will be used for the creation of: (1) model-based simulations of snowpack and regional hydrology; (2) model-based simulations of forest and shifting forest climate zones; (3) simulations of physical and biophysical changes regionally and globally; and (4) region-specific lesson plans. Some modules will involve a hands-on experience for estimation of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints. Unique features that are central to the success of this program include: (1) the collaboration of teachers with scientists and graduate student fellows in climate science and related fields; and (2) the explicit inclusion of place-based resource and cultural issues relevant to the Native peoples of the region.

Evaluation of this program will be conducted according to protocols provided by an external evaluator. Teacher understanding of climate change will be evaluated for relevance to (1) standards for climate science literacy, (2) local and regional impacts of climate change, and (3) means of mitigation and adaptation.

Read full project proposal