Over 50 educators from more than 10 states convened at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota for the 2017 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education for four impactful days of climate change education.

The Institute focused on giving educators the tools and resources to integrate climate change into a variety of educational settings. Thanks to generous donors, we were able to offer 13 scholarships to out-of-state educators to travel and attend this training, which made the cohort from this year diverse in reach, yet people found common ground in the challenges and successes in teaching climate change. There was time for networking and reflecting, and educators were able to communicate about developing the groundwork to bridge the needs between schools and non-formal education centers. The University of MN had an abundance of scientists, graduate students, Institute on the Environment staff, programs, and labs that were featured during the week, and educators learned of the places at the University of MN where they could get real-world, authentic data that they can use with their students.

This year’s Summer Institute focused on our newest curriculum, Next Generation Climate. This resource framed our topics, lessons, breakout sessions, and discussions for the week, and supports the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We devoted the Summer Institute to this resource recognizing that climate change provides a real-world context for learning the disciplinary core ideas of climate change, and utilizing the scientific and engineering practices outlined in NGSS.

Each day included a guiding question that was then addressed through curriculum lessons and speaker content, so that by the end of the week the educators had a robust knowledge base of climate change, impacts, and solutions. Guiding questions for each day included:

  1. What evidence is there to show there is a rise in global temperature?
  2.  What factors have caused the rise in global temperature over the last century? What are the repercussions of the rise in global temperature? What do you need to monitor them?
  3. In what ways can the repercussions of climate change be monitored and minimized?

“The Summer Institute is inspiring on many levels both professionally and personally. It encourages me that others are making a difference and taking time to learn and craft how they can help and inspire others. Knowledge is the power that will make the change we need for our future.” -2017 Summer Institute Attendee

“It was refreshing to be among people whose only agenda for talking about climate change was an honest desire to ensure a better future.” -2017 Summer Institute Attendee

“It was a pleasure to spend 3 days with skilled, passionate educators, who guided me through excellent resources and strategies! Climate change is the perfect vehicle for my whole 8th grade earth science curriculum to spiral through, so I’m grateful to get those great resources.” -2017 Summer Institute Attendee

Check out the interactive agenda below and click on the presentations, resources, and worksheets to see what the Summer Institute 2017 was all about!

Goals of Attendees


Day 1

Summer Institute attendees were oriented to our interdisciplinary and solutions-oriented approach to teaching climate change. Day 1 focused on the evidence of climate change and common misinformation. That evening, educators and community members packed the Humphrey School’s Cowles auditorium for our free public forum, Climate Change in the Age of Alternative Facts.

8:30 AM Arrive and Breakfast

9:00 AM Welcome from Jessica Hellman, Director of Institute on the Environment
Why Climate Change Education?” by Kristen Poppleton (PDF 2.2MB)

10:30 AMClimate Change Primer,” by Kristen Poppleton, Megan Van Loh, and Jenna Totz (PDF 6MB)

12:00 AM Lunch

1:00 PM Next Generation Climate Curriculum Orientation and Lesson 1 Activity


2:15-4:30 PM

4:45 PM Daily Reflection

6:00 – 8:30 PM Public Forum: Climate Change in the Age of Alternative Facts with Dr. Ben Santer, Jessica Hellman, Steve Kelley at Cowles Auditorium- Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Day 2

U of M Energy Transition Lab director Ellen Anderson gave the keynote talk, reviewing the electricity legacy of our country and highlighting the exciting path ahead as the clean energy transition accelerates. Day 2 focused on the causes and impacts of climate change, and included an hour-long speed dating with scientists from the U. In the evening, educators and staff picnicked and watched baseball at the energy-efficient CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints.

8:30 AM Breakfast

9:00 AM Keynote with Ellen Anderson: Energy Transition: What it Means for People, the Planet, and Prosperity (PDF 1.1MB)

10:00 AM Curriculum Session (PDF 189KB)

Lesson 2: Claims, Evidence, Reasoning
Lesson 3: 10 Indicators of a Warming World
Lesson 5: Mitigation vs. Adaptation

12:00 PM Lunch

1:00 PM Speed Dating with UMN


2:15 – 4:30 PM

4:45 PM Daily Reflection

7:00 PM St. Paul Saints Baseball Game

Day 3

Educators split off for U of M lab visits in the morning, which included trips to the Monarch Lab and the College of Biological Sciences Conservatory, providing an opportunity to learn how climate science is conducted. During the afternoon, they rotated through action workshops to learn how to put their growing climate literacy expertise into practice.

8:30 AM Breakfast

9:00 AM Climate Change Solutions and Timeline Activity, Kristen Poppleton (link)

10:00-12:15 AM University of MN Lab Tours and Presentations

  • MN State Climatology Office
  • Global Landscapes Initiative
  • Monarch Lab
  • U- Spatial (PDF 1.8MB)
  • College of Biological Sciences Conservatory

12:30 PM Lunch


1:30 – 4:30 PM

  • Building a Teacher Network, Barry Greenwald
  • Public Engagement, Jothsna Harris
  • Youth Engagement, Jason Rodney
  • Nature Engagement, Megan Van Loh
  • Curriculum Planning, Jenna Totz

3:30 PM Solutions and Daily Reflection

Day 4

The last day of the Institute featured an optional field trip to the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve where educators toured the fields and learned about the resources at the reserve, including how climate change affects our biomes.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve Field Trip

9:30-3:00 Explore Long Term Research at Cedar Creek, hike through Minnesota Biomes, explore Cedar Creek website in order to download resources.