As part of the plan, Evanston’s Office of Sustainability partnered with the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to pilot a one-month climate change curriculum in the District’s three middle schools. The City of Evanston used local climatological data and reports developed through the City’s previous partnership with the Great Lake Climate Adaptation Network (GLCAN) and GLISA. This data was then converted into short local climate change scenarios relating to invasive species proliferation, flooding, extreme heat, and waste. The Office of Sustainability and its partners wrote the curriculum based on this data and vetted it with multiple community groups to ensure it was easy to understand, concise, and would be easy to deploy. The Office of Sustainability then trained community volunteers and local school district science teachers on the activity and curriculum so that they would be able to utilize it in their classrooms. Lastly, the City recorded a short introductory presentation that was used as an introduction for each class prior to the launch of the curriculum.
Part of the goal for the material was to get students to readily engage in the topics and understand why they were important. To accomplish that goal, the curriculum was designed to have the students discuss larger issues instead of being told about them. For instance, instead of stating, “air quality is worse because of emissions from cars,” the Office of Sustainability wanted students to discuss why clean air is important for human and ecosystem health. As a culmination of the project in its first year, all sixth-grade science students presented their climate change mitigation strategies at the school-wide science fair, resulting in hundreds of innovative youth-created local climate solutions.
The City also wanted to prioritize sharing the curriculum and insights gained through the activity, so School District 65 posted information from the project on their website for others to reference.
This project is meant to be iterative and a “living” curriculum and activity, meaning it is updated throughout the year based on feedback from partners and participants. The first version took about four months to develop and deploy (June – September 2018). It then took another six months to turn it into a curriculum that could be used for school-aged participants (October 2018 – May 2019). Since 2018, the curriculum has undergone significant revisions and upgrades in late 2019 and in mid-2020. The Office of Sustainability plans on continuing to evolve the activity in 2021.
The City of Evanston applied for and received a $10,000 grant from the National League of Cities, the sole funder of the project. The grant includes twelve months of technical assistance, staff support, and professional development opportunities for community leaders. The funding was used to pay community partners for their time and to pay a graphic designer to turn the initial material into a more visually appealing set of materials.