Evanston climate education and outreach

Outcomes and Conclusions

The three partner middle schools engaged their sixth-grade students in a month-long unit focused on the impacts of the climate crisis and what the local responses should be from Evanston. The Experience Climate Change content was the starting point to help students wrap their minds around the climate change impacts that will accelerate in Evanston, such as how many days of extreme heat the city will experience. Teachers then used their own material to help students process the information and brainstorm ideas for their science fair projects. At the culmination of the activity, students presented their solutions to these issues in a science fair with hundreds of attendees and were attended by numerous local officials including the Mayor.

The goal for Experience Climate Change is for it to continue evolving as the needs of the community change. The Office of Sustainability would like the activity to become a resource for all age levels and demographics, including for people outside of the school system. They also want to use this activity to find out what people already know about climate change to ensure the information in the activity is relevant. The Office of Sustainability has also transferred the material onto their website so that other community organizations can use the content and help reach a broader audience. Pending feedback and additional funding, there is the potential to expand the Experience Climate Change activity beyond the classroom to other local institutions such as museums and libraries.

Challenges

One challenging aspect of this project was creating relevant, immersive content. The team conducted extensive research to ensure that the information included in the activity was credible. Once the team identified proper sources, they faced the challenge of finding a balance of topics that would be educational and resonate with students without being overly technical.

Other challenges the team encountered included difficulty finding institutional partners that do this type of exhibit design creation, such as museums and foundations. The team hired a professional designer with the intent of adding a longer-term collaborative partner, but this intent did not come to fruition.

Takeaway Message

According to Brittanie Giroux, the City of Evanston’s Sustainability Fellow, the program’s “subtle shift in framing has been really important because people feel more confident sharing their opinions and feelings. The participants don’t need to be the experts, they just need to share their experiences and decide what they should do to improve the situation.”

Additional resources

For additional information on Evanston's climate change activity, contact:

Kumar Jensen
Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer
City of Evanston, IL
kjensen@cityofevanston.org
847-448-8199