Thoughts from the Inside: White House Roundtable Discussion on Climate Literacy

Note: This is a follow-up post to: WSF Joins Invitation Only White House Kick-off on Climate Education and Literacy

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It was quite an honor to be invited to a White House convening of top leaders from across the “federal family,” the nonprofit sector, universities, professional associations, media, and philanthropy to discuss ways we can collectively advance climate change education. I was giddy with excitement as I prepared for the tiny window of opportunity to share my thoughts on how we could, as a country, scale up our work to truly make a difference in building a climate literate society with the knowledge, skills and motivations to engage in climate change solutions.  It was so inspiring to be in a room with senior leadership and a small community of thought leaders dedicated to an issue that is certainly in the Will Steger Foundation’s expertise and sweet spot!

The Roundtable discussion responded to key questions proposed by senior leadership from the Administration including:

  • What is needed to enhance integration of climate information into classroom, parks, and training efforts?
  • How can the good work occurring on the ground be better connected or scaled up?
  • How can we collectively measure the success of these efforts?
  • What are the roles/opportunities for the private, philanthropic, academic and non-governmental communities?
  • What can the federal government do to better support the efficiency and efficacy of these efforts?

We attempted to discuss some of these questions in the context of K-12 education, higher education, informal place-based education and professional development for educators (pre and in-service educators).

Major themes evolved from the conversation:

  • Climate change is complicated, controversial, and not always visible but place-based education, making the issue personal, local and relevant is often the best way to help students and citizens understand and engage in the issue. The National Parks provide a wonderful classroom for this purpose!
  • The new Next Generation Science Standards represent the best framework to integrate STEM and climate change education and reiterates the interdisciplinary nature of comprehensive climate change education
  • Focus on more integration into K-12 education as well as professional development/training for educators is a top priority
    • There is a large gap between educators confidence and competence to address climate change topics in the classroom
  • Schools and higher education campuses represent critical vehicles for connecting education and action
  • The philanthropic community is disconnected and not always aware of the integrated nature and opportunity to advance climate change education and STEM education, especially in the context of climate change and increasing a skilled workforce that is also scientifically savvy.
  • There is a need for increased collaboration and communication among the community to share and learn from best practices; the CLEAN Network of which WSF is a member, is a shining example of this effort, with room for growth to achieve its collective impact potential.

Throughout the meeting, I was affirmed that the Will Steger Foundation’s approach to our education efforts – to support educators, students and the public with science-based interdisciplinary education resources on climate change, it’s implications and solutions, to achieve climate literacy – is absolutely answering President Obama’s call for climate literacy and education.  As we enter our tenth year in 2015-2016, I look forward to continuing our work and being a part of “Lifting America’s Game in Climate Education, Literacy, and Training.

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