Jenna Ladd | October 7, 2016
The University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research hosted the 2016 Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum in West Des Moines this Friday.
The event featured presentations from leaders in higher education, scientists, and experts in related fields that aimed to improve climate science education for students in Iowa. Kris A. Kilibarda, State Science Consultant for the Iowa Department of Education, outlined the goals and implementation plan for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). NGSS are K-12 science standards that will be adopted by schools in Iowa over the next three years. The standards promote cross-curriculum, investigative learning that includes elements of climate science.
Des Moines Area Community College student Maxwell Blend attended the forum. Maxell, now 25, attended K-12 within the Valley Community School District. He said, “Growing up, I guess I wasn’t introduced to science or mathematics super early on, at least not in a complex manner…so it’s really cool to see that they’re actually going to be teaching students some of those critical thinking skills.”
Event organizer David Courard-Hauri also took the time to reflect on the recent release of the sixth annual Iowa climate statement titled Iowa Climate Statement 2016: The Multiple Benefits of Climate-Smart Agriculture.
Giselle Bruskewitz, Coordinator of Sustainability Education at Central College, said that she found both the statement and forum to be relevant to her work. She said,
“I think all of that kind of ties into what we do at Central College with interdisciplinary education. Climate change should be part of what we’re teaching in higher ed, and it should be pervasive not only in the curriculum but also in the day-to-day experiences, such as how we’re eating on campus and how that ties us to our agricultural system.”
Central College is one of only 13 colleges in the country to require all of its students to take a sustainability course before graduating. The campus boasts an organic garden that provides experiential learning and food for students. The Pella college also leads a Sustainability Faculty Workshop for higher education instructors of all disciplines to design courses which integrate sustainability into their coursework. “This interdisciplinary approach is something that’s really central to what we do,”Bruskewitz added.
Over the lunch hour, Senior Science Writer for IIHR at the University of Iowa, Connie Mutel, offered suggestions for climate scientists looking to more effectively communicate their work to the general public. Mutel, who is also the author of A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland, emphasized the importance of storytelling and a solution-based tone when communicating about climate change.
Dr. Diane Debinski, Professor of Conservation Biology at the Iowa State University, presented about climate change adaptation within grassland ecosystems as reflected by her field work in Ringold County. Debinksi said,
“This conference was a great opportunity for educators from K-12 to university level to share ideas about how to communicate about climate change using stories, graphs, and imagery.”