By James Brey, Director, AMS Education Program & Elizabeth Mills, Associate Director, AMS Education Program

(This article appears in the December, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

There has never been such a critical need for educating today’s undergraduates on Earth’s changing climate and pathways to sustainability.  The footprints of climate change surround us – Arctic sea ice reached its record lowest extent in August 2012, the 10 warmest years in the global climate record have occurred since 1997, and global sea level continues to rise (1). Climate change is also predicted to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, which combined with sea-level rise, may lead to more natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy (123).

It is imperative to develop a scientific workforce ready to tackle the challenge of climate change in light of the new energy economy and various societal and political factors. The National Science Foundation (NSF) underscores the need for increasing public literacy in the Earth System Sciences, including climate science literacy, and preparing a highly skilled scientific workforce reflecting the nation’s diversity (45).

To promote climate science literacy and geoscience diversity, NSF is supporting a long-term partnership between Second Nature and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Education Program that will introduce the AMS Climate Studies course to 100 minority-serving institutions (MSIs) over a five-year period (6).  AMS is now enrolling 25 MSI faculty members to attend the expenses-paid Course Implementation Workshop in Washington, DC, from May 19-24, 2013.

The Implementation workshop leverages the expertise of NASANOAA, and Howard University climate scientists, as well as faculty from George Mason University and James Madison University, both signatories to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). The 2013 AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project informational website and application form are available online. The deadline for application is March 15, 2013.

amsbrochure-largerThe AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project aligns with the goals of the ACUPCC and supports the diversity initiatives of Second Nature. The AMS-Second Nature partnership is enabling signatories to strengthen the curriculum component of theirACUPCC Climate Action Plans.  Faculty members representing 28 MSIs attended the inaugural Course Implementation Workshop in May 2012 and are introducing the climate course at their local institutions this academic year.  The 2012 cohort included 9 signatory MSIs: California State University Monterey Bay,Coppin State UniversityDelaware State University Jones County Junior CollegeMonroe Community College (NY), Morgan State University (MD), New Mexico State UniversityNew Mexico State University – Grants Campus, and South Mountain Community College (AZ).

AMS Climate Studies is closely tied to campus wide sustainability efforts. As Professor Mintesinot Jiru (Coppin State University) explains, “this course alone will enlighten our students with the contemporary issues of climate and impact of climate change. The course is a good addition to the other sustainability related courses we have on campus. It will strengthen our effort to infuse sustainability education in our curriculum. I am working with our Associate Vice President for Government and Public Policy, who is also in charge of sustainability initiative on campus, to ensure that what we do in the classroom is also reflected on our campus-wide sustainability initiative.”

Professor Jason Szymanski of Monroe Community College is also connected to his college’s Climate Action Plan. “Indeed this course will promote awareness of, and engage students in, sustainable, college-wide actions. I am working with the College’s Sustainability Steering Committee to support the College’s Action Plan. For example, written into the curriculum of the course is a component that highlights sustainable practices on campus including our ride-share program, our new LEED Certified building, electrical co-generation facility, and recycling initiatives. Students will also be taught carbon-reducing practices that they can incorporate into their day to day routines.”

Faculty members are drawn to the AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project for many reasons. Some are key players in their Climate Action Plan development and implementation. Others, like Professor Michael Leach of New Mexico State University – Grants Campus, want to educate their students about climate science topics using current data with the sustainability connection as a plus.  As Professor Leach explains, “I was not aware that our college was an ACUPCC signatory when I applied for the Climate Diversity Project, however I was aware that we were involved in some type of sustainability program, as I had to report if my classes had a sustainability component. That is easy to report for my AMS classes. I chose climate studies for many reasons, but the fact that it would help my students understand the complexities of climate, and the human factors involved in climate change were tops on my list. I feel it is extremely important for all college graduates to have broad general knowledge of climate change, as it is their generation that is going to be involved in helping to fix the problem.”

AMS Climate Studies is a course package available to undergraduate institutions nationwide. The course can be offered by science faculty with a range of backgrounds, within various learning environments from face-to-face to online instruction. Developed by AMS staff scientists and science educators, the course includes a comprehensive 15-chapter textbook, an Investigations Manual with 30 laboratory-style activities, a course website containing current science investigations and real-time data, and a faculty website and resource CD. Course activities and test banks are provided in Respondus format that can be ported into a course management system for automated scoring and immediate student feedback.

Faculty fit the course into different departments and levels depending on their local college requirements. For example, Professor Constance Falk of New Mexico State University plans to first offer the course in spring 2013 as a senior level honors class. She explains that “the course will be open to all majors and focus on science, policy, and politics.” Professor Chunlei Fan of Morgan State University first offered the course as a “498” internship class in fall 2012 and awaits full course approval. Professor Szymanski has the 4-credit sequence of Climate Change with a laboratory approved at a 200-level.  Many others implement the course at the introductory undergraduate level.

——————

References:

(1)    American Meteorological Society (Adopted 20 August 2012) “Climate Change: An Information State of the American Meteorological Society” Boston, MA: American Metrological Society, http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/2012climatechange.html

(2)    National Research Council, 2012. “Climate Change: Evidence, Impacts, and Choices. “ Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=14674

(3)    Kahn, Brian.”Superstorm Sandy and Sea-level Rise.” 5 November 2012. NOAA ClimateWatch Magazine. Retrieved fromhttp://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/article/2012/superstorm-sandy-and-sea-level-rise

(4)    National Science Foundation (2012) Strategic Frameworks for Education & Diversity, Facilities, International Activities, and Data & Informatics in the Geosciences http://www.nsf.gov/geo/acgeo/geovision/geo_strategic_plans_2012.pdf

(5)    NSF Advisory Committee for Geosciences (2009) Geovision Reporthttp://www.nsf.gov/geo/acgeo/geovision/nsf_ac-geo_vision_10_2009.pdf

(6)    Brey, James. “American Meteorological Society and Second Nature Partner to Strengthen Climate Sustainability-Focused Curricula at Minority-Serving Institutions.” February 2010. Advancing Education for Sustainability. Retrieved from… http://secondnaturebos.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/american-meteorological-society-and-second-nature-partner-to-strengthen-climate-and-sustainability-focused-curricula-at-minority-serving-institutions/

The following authors also contributed to this article:
Kira Nugnes, Program Assistant, AMS
Kathryn O’Neill, Content Specialist, AMS
Maureen Moses, Program Assistant, AMS