Dickinson to Lead Climate Change Education Campaign
December 18, 2009
Dickinson College has been awarded a grant as part of NASA’s Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN): "Global Climate Change Education: Research Experiences, Teaching and Learning." The college is among 15 national educational institutes selected for the educational outreach program and is the only liberal arts and sciences college selected for a grant since the program’s initiation in 2008.
Dickinson will receive $486,919 in support of its program, “Cooling the Liberal Arts Curriculum". The college will collaborate with Montgomery College in Maryland and Central Pennsylvania’s Community College (HACC), Montgomery County Community College and Northampton Community College, Pa. All four are members of Dickinson’s Community College Partnership program, which prepares full-time, highly motivated honors students for transfer to the private, national liberal-arts college following completion of their two-year degree and provides up to $15,000 in scholarships.
Collectively, the colleges will implement a comprehensive, multifaceted campaign to build teacher competency for interdisciplinary teaching about climate change. This approach is modeled after, and will be implemented in conjunction with a college-wide initiative that is integrating sustainability education across Dickinson’s curriculum. Anticipated outcomes include climate literacy of students completing two-and four-year degrees in the liberal arts that prepare them for climate change related employment, continued study toward a higher degree and/or informed participation in public decision-making for managing climate risks. The program also is designed to increase the numbers of students who go on from a two-year degree to a four-year degree in fields related to climate change and strengthened collaboration between Dickinson College and its partner community colleges.
The campaign will be managed by Dickinson College’s Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education and led by the center's director, Neil Leary. Co-investigators from the partner colleges will coordinate activities on their campuses and serve on the Climate Change Curriculum Task Force, which will guide development and implementation of the core curriculum of climate change-focused courses. Aside from funding, materials created by NASA to enhance global climate education will be available to selected institutions for use in their projects. The Center for Climate System Research at Columbia University and the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, a NASA Earth Science Data Center that is also located at Columbia University, will participate in the campaign to assist with training activities for members of the faculties of the participating colleges.
In weighing the merits of Dickinson’s proposal, the CAN review panel stated that the inclusion of social sciences and humanities was a key strength as large numbers of community, business and political leaders have a liberal arts college background and those experiences contribute substantively to their formative roots. The notes went on to say that the project has the potential to impact future decision making at a high level and to draw students to science via climate change topics infused throughout the liberal arts curriculum. The reviewer’s viewed favorably the robust connection between a four-year liberal arts college and nearby community colleges and the panel also commented on the comprehensive nature of the campaign and the competitive selection of faculty at five institutions and from other institutes of higher education.
As an example of Dickinson’s curricular efforts to promote sustainability education, the college lead a delegation of 15 students to the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, Denmark. The students are taking a yearlong intensive course on climate change science, policy and public communication. While at the conference, students interviewed government delegates, scientists and other participants as part of a research project to examine the positions of different parties in the negotiations.
Other grant recipients included Research I Universities Stanford, Rice and Penn State; science museums including the American Museum of Natural History and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and science education organizations/consultants PBS, Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of American Geographers and the Technical Education Research Centers.