Read for the Earth: Connecting Formal and Informal Climate Change Education for Undergraduates

Project No.
PI Name
David Blockstein
National Council for Science and the Environment

Abstract 1

Read for the Earth: Connecting Formal and Informal Climate Change Education for Undergraduates

Presentation Type
David E Blockstein, PI, National Council for Science and the Environment; Geoffrey Haines-Stiles, Co-PI, GHS Productions/Passport to Knowledge; Saul Rockman, Evaluator, Rockman et al.; Mary Albert, Faculty, Dartmouth; Richard Alley, Faculty, Penn State; Dan Bedford, Faculty,Weber State; Lisa Bosman, Faculty, College of the Menomonee Nation; David Buridge, Faculty, Old Dominion; Julie, Brigham-Grette, Faculty, U. Mass Amherst; Laura Cisneros, Faculty, U. Connecticut; Ozeas Costa, Jr., Faculty, Ohio State; Russanne Low, Faculty, U. Nebraska, Lincoln; Renee Mullen, Faculty, Eureka College; John Volin, Faculty, U. Connecticut; Ed Wells,Faculty, Wilson College; Scott Mandia, Suffolk Community College Faculty; Teresa Newberry, Tohono O'Odham Community College Faculty; Herrera, Arturo, Technician, National Council for Science and the Environment; Claire, Quimby, Consultant/Evaluator, Rockman et al.


The growth of digital media and its expanding use in education provides new and largely unexplored opportunities. There has been relatively little exploration of how digital media developed for popular informal audiences can be applied to advance undergraduate education.
This project blends traditional approaches (a popular book that presents science in an accessible way) with the new (online video, social media, a MOOC and digital content) to enable student learning. The pilot engages faculty and students from a variety of types of colleges and universities in a collaborative effort to test materials in a variety of undergraduate courses, taught in traditional classroom and online formats. We utilize a popular topic, climate change and clean energy, and materials developed under an NSF informal science education grant to create the PBS mini-series Earth: The Operatorsメ Manual (ETOM) to examine how these materials advance student knowledge, attitudes and behavioral changes. We also examine how these materials facilitate faculty use and ease of use.


Our goal is to develop, deliver and evaluate a suite of educational resources that can be used in a blended learning experience for undergraduates that will introduce climate change science and sustainable energy solutions.
Objectives: Improve students' knowledge and attitudes about climate change; Evaluate the use of ETOM materials in blended learning.
Thirteen faculty members at institutions across the U.S. participated in the Read for the Earth pilot phase during the spring semester of 2015. They used ETOM materials in their introductory or advanced courses as parts of units on climate and energy.


Seven professors administered a pre-and-post survey to their students with questions on content knowledge, attitude, and behaviors. We held monthly conference calls with the faculty, PIs, evaluators and author Richard Alley.
Students participated in two Google Hangouts with Dr. Alley on Earth Day.


We have shown the power of the ETOM materials and the mixed multimedia approach in advancing student knowledge, changing attitudes and behavior about climate and energy. The materials have been used in a variety of courses, primarily in introductory courses, and with variety of pedagogical approaches, including online courses at an unusually wide variety of academic settings including tribal colleges, other community colleges, small liberal arts colleges (including elite and less-selective institutions), comprehensive regional colleges and land grants.
Overall, studentsメ responses to the climate change quiz showed significant improvement from pre (44% correct answers) to post (51% correct answers). Seven of the eight classes that incorporated ETOM materials during the Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2015 showed improvements from pre to post, with significant changes in four classes.
Analyzing student responses by their previous science experience showed mixed results. Students who had taken two or more previous science courses showed significant improvement on the content knowledge quiz, as did students who had taken no previous science courses. Students who had one previous science course also improved, although not significantly. From pre- to post-survey, students were more likely to say they thought that climate change is happening and caused by humans, more likely to support measures to control climate change, and less likely to believe that the seriousness of climate change has been exaggerated.
We are seeking funding to develop curricular modules based on the ETOM materials.

Broader Impacts

From pre- to post-survey, more students reported positive behavior changes relating to climate changed. Numbers of students who said they discussed climate change with family or friends, volunteered for a climate change organization, or changed their personal behaviors all increased significantly.
Students also felt that their knowledge regarding climate change topics had increased, showing a significant increase on all six survey items.
Workshops were presented at the National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment (National Council for Science and the Environment) in January 2014 and 2015 and at the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) conferences in June 2014 (Pace University) and June 2015 (U. California, San Diego) and at the Earth Educators Rendezvous at University of Colorado, Boulder in July 2016.
Websites developed for other projects of the PIs and used for this project: モEarth: the Operatorsメ Manualヤ (ETOM) and Climate Adaptation and Mitigation E-Learning (CAMEL)

Unexpected Challenges

Because of challenges in recruiting schools to pilot the use of ETOM as a common first year reading for freshman, we emphasized use of the materials in a variety of classroom settings. We have had a larger number of participating faculty than we had anticipated for the use of the ETOM materials at the course level, so we are able to have a larger sample size.



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