NASA Climate Day/Earth Ambassadors

Project Name:
NASA Climate Day/Earth Ambassadors

Project Description:
NASA Climate Day is a global climate change literacy project for educators and community volunteers. NASA Climate Day brings scientists, students, and communities together to promote global climate literacy through the creation of a cadre of “Earth Ambassadors” trained in NASA global climate change and Earth system topics who follow-up by conducting a climate day event in their region.

Goal: The objective of NASA Climate Day is to raise public awareness of the relevance of NASA science and missions to understanding of the Earth system and global climate change, and advance public understanding of NASA Earth Science and research, helping individuals make better-informed decisions about societal issues related to global climate change through the interactions with Earth Ambassadors at NASA Climate Day events.

We utilize existing NASA resources to establish an electronic Climate Day Kit and an Earth Ambassador program to serve as the support structure for nation-wide series of NASA Climate Day Events. Critical to the success of this effort is the selection of materials to support such events. The materials available to support a Climate Day event must be current and engaging, as well as scientifically and educationally sound. There is currently a wealth of widely dispersed electronic NASA-driven material available on climate change.

In collaboration with the newly awarded Science Mission Directorate Earth Science Education and Public Outreach Forum (SEPOF), Co-I Chambers coordinates the identified resources related to climate change that can be used in the Climate Day Kit (Kit). This is a mutually beneficial relationship. It engages the broader NASA Earth Science Education community to identify the most useful of the existing electronic resources; while in return, our team compiles a topical resource that is made available to the NASA Earth Science Education Forum community as well as educators beyond the reach of internal NASA resources.

The content of the Kit includes items that can be used in informal settings for outreach purposes. Links to electronic resources, to illustrate climate change concepts, such as visualizations, animations, websites and web shorts are listed. It also includes educational resources such as podcasts, vodcasts, captured scientific presentations, and lessons from the NASA Digital Learning Network. The Kit includes either links or PDF files of educational activities that can be done in conjunction with NASA Climate Day event.

In addition to working to identify existing NASA resources that can be used in the Kit, a gap analysis is performed of the resources themselves in order to ensure all of the necessary topics are covered. We address the gaps that are not sufficiently covered by working with the science and educational resources at our local institutions to create new materials or resources for inclusion in the Kit.

NASA Climate Day Kit and Climate Day events addresses a crucial need for understanding of climate and climate change among the general public and secondary education audiences to enable informed civic interactions and decision-making in the face of a potentially devastating global event. It accomplishes this by tying together existing NASA science and education resources and making them available through collaboration with community-based organizations having direct contact with local audiences.

This program makes a concerted effort to tie together already available NASA resources and information about the Earth system, thus providing high impact at minimum cost. These materials are organized into a continuously evolving electronic NASA Climate Day Kit, where new resources are captured as well. This Kit is easy to use for a variety of audiences, providing quick access to relevant information at the right level. Information and resources are easily updated to maintain a most viable resource.

A cadre of trained Earth Ambassadors can effectively communicate this information through local events and partnerships, during a series of NASA Climate Day events. Earth Ambassadors receive information on NASA outreach resources including the Digital Learning Network (DLN), Aerospace Education Specialists Program (AESP), Speakers Bureau, and other resources that can bring NASA into local communities.

Demonstrated partnerships enabling cost effective use of leveraged resources and infrastructure include local universities, community or junior colleges, utility departments, school systems, regional consortia, and other groups such as Junior Achievement, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, Boy and Girl Scouts, 4H, etc…

Science-based resources and information about climate and climate change is provided through this proposal, helping our target audience to understand not only the potential impacts, but more importantly to understand how we know what we know and how that knowledge evolves as science progresses. This is done, in part, by capturing presentations on the state-of-the-art in climate science given by key NASA experts and making them available for wide distribution (following the model of TED: Ideas worth sharing; Earth Ambassadors (GSFC/PI Weir) then receive periodic updates on the new resources available in the Climate Day Kit (LaRC/Chambers), and evaluation information supporting how to best use the resources.

The NASA Climate Day team has extensive experience with NASA E/PO and has developed several high impact programs. The current work leverages that experience and will also be informed by a focused evaluation effort to fine-tune the Climate Day Kits and events, and Earth Ambassador trainings. We also exploit and leverage new media for the Kit and the Ambassador trainings, and use the services of a visionary board to guide our work in this area.

Lead Institution:
Science Systems and Applications Inc. (SSAI)
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Langley Research Center (LaRC)

The proposal team has extensive experience with NASA E/PO and has developed several high impact programs. PI Heather Weir and Co-I Rosemary Millham, Science Systems and Applications Inc. (SSAI) located at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), have experience in facilitating a variety of professional development programs including the very successful Explore! To the Moon and Beyond! program with Lunar and Planetary Institute. PI Weir has experience managing the New Horizons Fellows Program, while Co-I Millham has experience with large E/PO Programs for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and EOS Aura, making them qualified to manage the Earth Ambassadors Program. Building upon the successful initial pilot Climate Day event in 2008 by JPL; LaRC’s 2008 Earth Fest, and GSFC’s 2008 Digital Learning Network activities, Co-I Annie Richardson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), manages the coordination of Climate Day Events hosted by the Earth Ambassadors. The Climate Day events and the Earth Ambassadors both make use of the electronic Climate Day Kit by compiled Co-I Lin Chambers, Langley Research Center (LaRC). Our evaluators, Sheila Arens and Jesse Rainey, Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), have extensive knowledge and experience with research design, program evaluation, and theory. experience including evaluating NASA-sponsored informal science education initiatives, after-school programs, and evaluations of curricular materials.. The overall effort will be managed by PI Heather Weir.

Number of K-12 Teachers, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 287
Number of K-12 Students, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 3,290
Number of Informal Educators, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 85
Number of Higher Education Faculty, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 12

Effectiveness and Impact:
Evaluation findings and impact statements:
To address the question: What were the successes and challenges of the Earth Ambassadors training, McREL evaluators used extant data from surveys completed by EAs regarding their training workshop and regarding their attitudes about climate. Workshop and climate attitude surveys asked EAs to reflect on their own thinking and knowledge about climate as well as hypothesize how participants in the Events they sponsor would receive information presented in the Event (including EA perceptions about participants’ beliefs about climate). To address the question: What are the perceptions of participants in the Climate Day Events, McREL evaluators used extant data from surveys completed by participants at Climate Day Events. Climate Day Event surveys collect data directly from the participants, offering a more proximal measure of participants’ own beliefs about and knowledge of climate and climate change.

Workshop Surveys. EAs were asked to complete pre- and post-workshop surveys about the content and delivery of the workshops they received as part of their EA training. When asked what they thought the main challenges Climate Day Event participants might encounter when trying to understand information about Earth’s Climate, the main challenges listed centered on the complexity of the information. For instance, EAs were concerned participants would face challenges in understanding science facts—especially if they arrived with intractable pre- and misconceptions—as well as ways EAs could ensure Event presentations and materials were comprehensible and appropriate for a variety of audiences. EAs also mentioned that their Event participants might struggle with understanding the importance of and effects associated with climate change and understanding how people’s actions and behaviors impact climate change and how they can make a difference. At post, EAs expressed similar concerns, including low science knowledge among Event audience members, overcoming pre- and misconceptions, and helping participants understand how they can help address issues associated with climate change. EAs also voiced at post that Event participants might be challenged in their thinking because of the speed with which climate change is occurring. However, both in terms of their own perceived knowledge and confidence, EAs showed improvement from pre to post workshop, with more EAs reporting excellent or good levels of knowledge of climate change post workshop (12 versus 7), more EAs rating their confidence in presenting information on climate change as excellent or good post workshop (11 versus 4), more EAs reporting excellent or good levels of confidence in presenting information on ways to be “greener” (11 versus 6), increased confidence in the use of the climate change materials (9 versus 3), increased confidence in ways to use the being “greener” material (10 versus 4), increased identification of ways to be “greener” in their everyday choices (12 versus 7), and enhanced knowledge of the factors that contribute to climate change (10 versus 6). In terms of the question: What were the successes and challenges of the Earth Ambassadors training, the pre- and post-workshop data suggest that EAs had increased knowledge about climate change and increased their confidence in delivering an event about climate change.

Climate Attitude Surveys. EAs completed two online attitude surveys—one prior to attending the workshop and one following attendance at the workshop and following delivery of their own Climate Day Event. EAs were asked to reflect on what they learned, to share their perceptions of climate change, and to reflect on what they thought their participants knew or understood following Climate Day events. Changes in EAs’ knowledge and confidence from pre to post increased for every question on the survey, indicating the training had a positive impact on their understanding of climate science, as well as their understanding of ways they can make “greener” choices. EAs’ reflections on their participants’ beliefs about climate change generally declined following the workshop (i.e., EAs were not as likely to say their participants would be receptive to messaging about climate change)—this is perhaps not surprising given that EAs would likely have learned more about Event participants’ pre- and misconceptions during the workshop, preparing for their respective Climate Day Events, and based on delivery of their Event. For instance, when asked whether they thought Earth is experiencing climate change, all 12 EAs who responded to both surveys said yes—both prior to and following the training. However, when asked whether they believe their Event participants think climate change is happening, 11 respondents agreed prior to the training, and 10 agreed after the training. Likewise, EAs believed that they placed more personal importance on the issue of climate change than their participants at both pre- and post-assessment. For example, 11 respondents at pre and 12 respondents at post said the issue is “extremely important” or “very important” to them, however only two respondents at pre and three respondents at post perceived that their participants believe climate change is extremely or very important on a personal level. Further, when asked about what the role humans could play to reduce climate change, the majority of EAs indicated they believed humans could reduce the effects of climate change—but that it is unclear whether people will do what is needed. Some EAs perceived that their Event participants are also of the belief that people are not willing to change their behavior, or that people cannot reduce the effects of climate change. However both pre- and post-assessment data suggest that EAs generally believed that their participants could easily change their minds about climate change and no EAs indicated that they or their participants believe climate change is not happening. In terms of the question: What were the successes and challenges of the Earth Ambassadors training, the pre- and post-climate attitude survey data suggest that EAs had increased knowledge and confidence about their own perceptions of the significance of climate change and its impact, and the impact they can have in addressing climate change. However EAs also reported less certainty about their participants’ perceptions of these same issues.

Participant Surveys. Available participant data indicate that 100% of participants increased their understanding of climate and climate change. Moreover, in terms of whether attending the event increased confidence for talking to someone else about climate, 76% of survey respondents indicated that it had (and 14% indicated it somewhat had). The majority of survey respondents also indicated that they would be very likely or likely to both attend another Climate Day Event and to recommend Climate Day Events to others. In terms of the evaluation question: What are the perceptions of participants in the Climate Day Events, participant data collected to date indicate positive changes both in terms of understanding (knowledge) and in terms of future behaviors. Additional Data. Additional data are currently being collected to address questions regarding EAs experiences during and following training, the successes and challenges EAs experienced as they implemented Climate Day Events, and the additional training necessary to improve successes of Climate Day Events. Data collection methods to address these questions include interviews with Earth Ambassadors, observations of Climate Day Events, and additional on-site participant surveys. In an effort to obtain more participant feedback, a short, one-page survey was developed and can be completed on-site via paper or online using a mobile phone or tablet.

The evaluation design will not enable the derivation of unbiased treatment effects regarding impact (program participants were not randomly assigned to conditions). Evaluation data do suggest that the Earth Ambassadors workshops have led to increased understanding of climate change and—importantly—an increased confidence among EAs to share science-based climate issues with communities and the public. Following the training, Earth Ambassadors perceived themselves to be more knowledgeable about climate change, ways to be “greener,” and strategies for using the materials. Additionally, Earth Ambassadors considered themselves as more confident in presenting information to the public. Although EAs hypothesized their participants might struggle with Event content and struggle to make substantive changes to their beliefs about climate and climate change, Event participants noted an increased understanding of climate and climate change, increased confidence to talk with others about climate, and an interest in attending more climate-related events.

Future updates will include details regarding the number of trained EAs, the number of hosted Events, and the number of participants at Climate Day Events. These data will provide an indication of how this program has raised public awareness of the relevance of NASA missions and global climate change. As a cadre, the Earth Ambassadors represent one means through which a highly trained group of individuals—spread across the country—are working to share information about climate change in their respective communities.

Additionally, data derived from interviews, observations, and participant surveys will be reported in future updates to better understand EAs’ perceptions of materials used during Climate Day Events, the ways that the Climate Day Events were conducted, and changes to participants’ knowledge and beliefs about climate change.