Educating for Environmental Change (EfEC), an Environmental Resilience Institute-supported program to help Indiana educators teach climate change in the classroom, recently received Indiana’s top environmental award, the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, for “extraordinary initiatives in protecting the environment.”
Indiana Department of Environmental Management Commissioner Bruno Pigott presented the award during the statewide Pollution Prevention Conference and Tradeshow, held virtually on September 16 and 17.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by the governor for our work helping educators teach climate science and environmental education,” said Adam Scribner, Director of STEM Education Initiatives for the Indiana University School of Education and one of the EfEC organizers. “For the last four years, our team of educators and IU scientists have put a tremendous amount of effort into connecting Indiana teachers with the tools and resources they need to engage students in scientific practices.
“The educators we’ve worked with have gone on to teach thousands of students about the science of climate change and other environmental topics including habitat loss, the degradation of soil and water quality, invasive species, and changes in biogeochemical cycles. We hope that the strategies we’ve shared and the educator network that we’ve built will continue to bring awareness and excitement to the next generation about science and our environment.”
Teachers in Indiana face multiple barriers when it comes to teaching about climate change in the classroom, including a lack of age-appropriate activities. That is where EfEC comes in. As a collaboration between IU faculty, experienced K-12 educators, and the WonderLab Museum of Science, Health, and Technology, participating educators receive direct access to experts in the fields of climate change, education, and science communication to sharpen their curriculum on climate and environmental science.
During the summer, EfEC conducts the Summer Science Institute, a three-day workshop for elementary, middle, and high school educators. Teachers visit the IU Bloomington campus to learn about and take part in hands-on activities that can be adapted to deepen student understanding of climate change. Even in a year when in-person interaction wasn’t practical, EfEC still brought the workshops to teachers in an online forum.
Since 2017, EfEC has worked with nearly 150 teachers who have gone on to reach more than 15,000 students. For the past two summers, nearly all participating teachers reported that they increased their understanding of how the climate is changing and how human activities are causing the climate to change. Additionally, all participating educators reported that they expected to apply what they learned in their own classrooms.