Thursday, October 30, 2014

Climate Change Educational Materials Released

Need to engage teachers in learning about the carbon cycle? Trying to explain the evidence for climate change? Want to help forest landowners think about growing resilient forests, sequestering carbon, or understanding why using wood products removes carbon from the atmosphere? 

You can find engaging activities and teaching resources for these topics and more in a new educational module produced by the University of Florida environmental education team with Project Learning Tree (PLT). The module, Southeastern Forests and Climate Change was produced for PINEMAP, the USDA/NIFA-funded integrated research-education-Extension project focusing on loblolly pine and climate change. This secondary module is designed for educators to use in middle and high school classrooms and is framed on the research activities associated with PINEMAP, but explains these concepts in the broader context of southern forests. Adaptations to select activities are being developed by Extension educators in Kentucky to feature Appalachian hardwoods, and this information will be available to others as well.

The website makes these activities and supplemental resources (videos, slide presentations, answer keys, etc.) available to interested educators: Feel free to share this resource with your networks.

The collection of 14 activities helps biology, agriculture, and environmental science teachers focus on the interactions between climate and forests and the ways we can manage forests to adapt to and mitigate future change. It has also been used with 4-H youth and forest landowners in workshops and presentations. It is a great regional complement to PLT’s other secondary modules including Focus on Forests and Forests of the World. This module retains the tried and true features of PLT’s materials:  engaging activities, teacher background, step-by-step instructions, interdisciplinary focus on a controversial issue, science-based perspectives, critical thinking skills, data analysis, modifications and enrichment suggestions for adaptations, and correlations to national science standards. The module also offers some new additions to PLT materials:  a systems thinking connection in each activity and supplemental activities on the website, a research connection and videos with researchers explaining their work, and quotes from the pilot test teachers that provide encouraging words of wisdom on each activity.

This material can be defined in terms of several current buzzwords--STEM education or Education for Sustainability, for example. It engages learners in understanding science, using math skills, applying technology, integrating economics and justice, building skills in systems and critical thinking, enhancing group process and communication, and considering how we can approach the challenges of the future together. It is just good environmental education!

Between now and December 2015 copies of books will be available at no charge through the PINEMAP grant and mini-grants available to southeastern PLT Coordinators who wish to distribute this module in workshops. Extension faculty can use the resource and/or assist their state PLT coordinator with workshops. PINEMAP researchers are also available to assist.

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