State view: Cravaack plan a troubling backlash against climate-change education

We published a response to Congressman Cravaack’s amendment to cut funding for climate change education in the Duluth News Tribune. We were very disappointed to learn that Congressman Chip Cravaack of Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District offered an amendment to eliminate funding to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Climate Change Education Program.

This will affect great science-based climate change education projects here in Minnesota and across the country. Even though we do not directly receive NSF funding, financial support from NSF for climate change education is integral to the broader climate education community and the work we do by developing science based climate change education resources and programs and maintaining a nationwide network dedicated specifically to climate change education.

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Congressman Chip Cravaack’s amendment to eliminate funding for the National Science Foundation’s Climate Change Education Program would have a damaging impact on progress being made in climate-change education, and it seems based on an incorrect understanding of how the science foundation program works.

The congressman’s amendment, introduced last week (“Cravaack wants to cut climate education,” May 10), is a troubling example of the backlash against climate-change education that is happening in states around the country. A recent bill in Tennessee makes it possible for teachers to teach “both sides” of climate change when, in fact, the scientific community agrees climate change is happening and humans are the majority of the problem.

Although Cravaack claims his amendment has nothing to do with climate change, it is strange this is the one “duplicative” effort he chose to amend, as the National Science Foundation’s Climate Change Education Program was referred to in a mnews release from Cravaack’s office.

But the program is not duplicative. The National Science Foundation works closely with NASA and NOAA to make sure education projects are funded that cover different facets of climate-change education and that represent a variety of communities. The program is important because of its regional and thematic focus. The project at Como Zoo reaches the general public; there is a project in another part of the country that focuses on native communities and in another, national park visitors. These specifically focused efforts are important because developing an understanding of climate change involves making it relevant and local.

The Will Steger Foundation has collaborated with the CLEAN Pathway project, the CAMEL project and the Great Lakes Climate Change Education Project, all three recipients of National Science Foundation funds. Curriculum available through CLEAN is vetted by scientists and educators in a rigorous process and made available for free to educators. The CAMEL project is a resource for undergraduate and graduate-level educators and recently featured the Will Steger Foundation’s resources in a free webinar. Finally, the Great Lakes Climate Change Education Program helps bring together regional climate-change education efforts for collaboration and, once again, to decrease duplication.

The National Science Foundation’s Climate Change Education Program will become even more important in the months and years to come. On May 11, the Next Generation Science Standards were released, and global climate change was included as a core idea that all students will need to understand. Science educators need to have access to quality, science based materials and professional development, as offered by CLEAN and CAMEL, as these standards are adopted nationally and state by state.

They also need to learn about making the issue local and relevant to their students, something the Great Lakes Project is making possible.

Climate change is the issue that will define us in the 21st century. It is critical for us to prepare educators to teach about climate change and to develop students with the skills and knowledge to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

As Cravaack pointed out in his own news release, NSF “fund(s) worthy proposals through its rigorous, peer-reviewed process.” I can think of no better entity than the National Science Foundation to be supporting the educational efforts that will help define our future.

Kristen Poppleton is director of education for the Minneapolis-based Will Steger Foundation (, a nonprofit that supports educators and others with science-based educational resources on climate change.

[Reposted from Duluth News Tribune]


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