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Kristen Poppleton, Director of Education

Kristen Poppleton, Director of Education

Thursday, 07 October 2010 12:00

Climate Change and Migration

As those of us in Northern regions bid farewell to migratory species for the winter, and those of you in Southern regions are welcoming our summer wildlife, the topic of migration seemed like pertinent topic to write on today.  Climate change is clearly impacting migratory species.  Robins are being seen in the Arctic regions, and some butterfly species are emerging weeks earlier. However, while birds and butterflies are generally what comes to mind when we think about the affect of climate change on migration, another population often forgotten is humans.  climate.2008.138-f2
In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration—with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption.  (Migration and Climate Change)
Recently, Professor Norman Myers of Oxford University argued that ‘when global warming takes hold there could be as many as 200 million people displaced by 2050 by the disruptions of monsoon systems and other rainfall regimes, by droughts of unprecedented severity and duration, and by sea level rise and coastal flooding’… This would mean that by 2050 one in every 45 people in the world would have been displaced by climate change.  (Climate Change Impact and Forced Migration)

The impact of climate change on human populations provides us as educators with the opportunity to include discussions of environmental justice and ethics in our classroom.  What constitutes right and wrong?  How do our actions affect people living on the other side of the world and what is our responsibility?  Bring the discussion to a local level.  What populations in our own community are disproportionately impacted by climate change's impacts?  Why and what can or should we do?

(Here comes the flood Janos Bogardi & Koko Warner, Nature Reports Climate Change (2009) Published online: 11 December 2008)

Thursday, 30 September 2010 14:52

Out of the vault: Will Steger's archives

Recent funding from the Minnesota Historical Society has enabled us to begin organizing Will's vast archives. This project will be helpful as we develop our new curriculum focused on Minnesota's Changing Climate that integrates items from Will's archives. Over the next few months as we dive into the archives I will be sharing some of discoveries and ideas of ways they an be integrated into the classroom.

This week we pulled out a weather scrapbook that Will had beginning in 1956 when he was 10 years old. The scrapbook is in a tattered old three ring containing lined paper. Each page contains weather data and articles cut out from the newspaper and attached with now yellowed scotch tape. They give a snapshot of extreme weather events and patterns between 1954 and 1956. Did you know there was snowstorm on May 3, 1954? Did you know they used to publish cool graphs that showed the temperature ranges over the month and what the high, lows, and precipitation had been? What a great way to introduce students to graphing after following temperatures over a month.

Finding ways to make scientific research accessible  to the non scientist is important, if not essential, especially on topics related to environmental issues. I thought I'd take today to review one of my favorite educational tools that makes science accessible to middle schoolers, The Natural Inquirer. The Natural Inquirer is a middle school science education journal, published by the USDA Forest Service, that shares research published in scientific jouurbanclimatechangecover.jpg-thumbnailrnals and conducted by Forest Service scientists.  Each article include an introduction, method, findings, discussion and associated tables and graphs as in a real research article, but written at a middle school reading level.  One of the things I like about the journal, is that each scientist is introduced in the beginning with a photo and why they enjoy science.  The journal also include a glossary of terms, questions for reflection, and a lesson plan with suggestions of how to integrate the journal into the classroom.  Students are even introduced to peer review because each edition is reviewed by a middle school class "editorial review board."  Topics covered in the journals are all related to environmental science, and they have an entire library of climate change related research articles.

The Natural Inquirer is a great resource for middle school classrooms not only because of the opportunity to learn about complex environmental science topics at a middle school level, but because of the introduction to how scientific research is done and communicated.  I think that it could easily be used beyond middle schoolers, at a high school, and even college level.  Challenging upper level students to look at the primary source first, compare how it was "translated," and then asking them to do a translation of their own of another research article would be a great addition to an environmental science course.

Monday, 20 September 2010 17:33

Fill Your Notebooks!

During Dr. Naomi Oreskes's public forum a few weeks ago, she spoke about how she answers the question, "What can I do to help fight climate change? Should I buy a new hybrid car?" Dr. Oreskes said that she instantly responds that the best car is the car you already have. The amount of waste created by passing along a car and buying a new one, far outweighs the carbon emissions your car may emit (except of course if you are driving around a HUMMER). When you NEED a new a car, this may be the time to look into one with better gas mileage.ResizeTAEThis concept is easily transferred to other components of our life and at school. I wondered this year as I walked the corridors of my daughter's school looking at the piles of new sparkling school supplies, what had happened to last years notebooks, markers, crayons and glue. Were those still writable markers thrown out? The half filled notebooks sent home and put away in basement and attic storage? This idea and inclination for the newest, the most bright and sparkling is a hard one to fight. Who doesn't like to crack open a new notebook? But how long does that feeling really last? An hour? A day? Making this something to be proud of needs to become more streamlined and every day in our schools. Make a contest to see who can use the same notebook until the very last page and celebrate the learning that occurred between those covers and over the time it took to finish it. Finish the glue down the very last drop and then reuse the bottle for something else.

Have you come up with any creative ideas at your school? Send them in and we'll share them here on Climate lessons blog!

Thursday, 09 September 2010 13:16

The School Bus and Carbon Emissions

An article today in Conservation Minnesota details some ways that Minnesota schools can make their school a more environmentally friendly place WHILE freeing up money for education.  The article brought to mind two things that have surprised me as the parent of a kindergartner just starting public school this year.

1.  Paper!

Before our daughter started kindergarten we attended several meetings at the school, met with her teacher and received at least 3 mailings.  The result of these various meetings and mailings was close to a quarter of a ream of paper, much of which contained replications.  I realize that often it takes this many times for a parent to respond, but an alternate delivery method, or a prioritizing of what truly needs to be printed seems in order.  Put it all up on a website, but have some copies available for those who don't have access to the internet or ask parents on their kindergarten registartion forms if they would prefer to use email or post mail.cleanschoolbus_sm

2.  Bus vs. Ride 

We are lucky in our city to have free busing available to all public school children within the district that are more than a mile from school.  Because we live outside of a mile our daughter will be taking the bus.  There is a long list of reasons I could go into why we made this decision, but I will stick to the one most relevant this blog.  Carbon emissions.  A bus could be described as the largest carpool option that exists and regardless of if I choose to use it or not, it will be running.  Therefore if I choose to drive to school I double the emissions.  On top of this, our school district has been involved with a great program called Project Green Fleet.  "Project Green Fleet is a collaborative effort among business, government agencies and non-profit organizations to improve air quality and protect health by reducing emissions from Minnesota’s school buses and other diesel vehicles. Project Green Fleet helps school districts, privately owned school bus fleets, heavy-duty fleets and other diesel fleet owners reduce emissions through retrofits, repowers, and idle-reduction technologies."

When we toured the school my daughter will be attending last year we were able to go on a school bus ride.  During the ride the driver explained how his bus was retrofited under this program to all of the kids and parents on the bus.  His explanation turned the district's involvement in Project Green Fleet into not only a good environmental decision, but a teachable moment for children and parents alike.  By using the bus system available to my child, I show my support for our district thinking about the importance of reducing carbon emissions and air pollution and providing a teachable moment for all of us about the changes that can be made system wide.

Thursday, 02 September 2010 11:16

Back To School Blog

Climate Lessons Blog is back online after a successfully busy month of August planning, implementing and decompressing from our Fifth Annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education. To experience the Institute virtually you can visit the Summer Institute 2010 page which is still be updated with lots of videos of the Institute and interview with our speakers and participants. This year at the Institute participants were given an opportunity to reflect on the day and submit their blog to be posted. Below are some excerpts from the blogs I received.

It was really interesting to learn some of background behind the group that thinks that climate change is a hoax. It is great to have this background information to understand where the propaganda is coming from. It helped me gain an understanding behind this group and what their intent may be. I got to thinking about how I could incorporate this information into my classroom. I thought it might be interesting to the students to do some background research on these individuals and present that to the class. If that is not possible, it is still good information to talk to the students about. (Angela Engelhardt)IMG_0458

When Dr. Oreskes connected the proponnets of SDI with the climate change detractors I was blown away! I had no idea it was essentially the same group of people who were involved. Then to add the tobacco component to their resume, I was astounded at the influence a small group of people have had using the same philosophical approach. What are they going to attempt to persuade the public of next?! I am excited to go home and purchase Dr. Orsekes' new book, Merchants of Doubt. At some point, the few have to be exposed to the public, so the reality of human impact on the environment can be full addressed. I hope it is through organizations like the Steger Foundation, book such as Dr. Orsekes' and that more teachers will feel empowered to bring environmental education into the classroom thus enlightening the next generation. The institute had a lot of additional ah-ha moments, well worth the treck out from California to attend. Thank you for all you have do! (Monica Ward History-Social Science Teacher Ramona High School Riverside, CA)

The data regarding kids learning better after spending time outside coupled with the idea that they learn more from what we do than what we say was a good reminder for me. I have made a note to make sure to be sure to more explicitly model appreciation of the outdoors as the speaker suggested and build on the outdoors whenever possible in any of my teaching. Also the 5’C’s about how to appeal to people to change their behavior is catchy and I hope I can keep it in mind when trying to get people to follow me in my attempts to mitigate climate change: common experience, civility, core values, citizenship, community (Sharon Gloster)

What has always been a real struggle for me is how to "adapt" my own personal concern regarding Climate Change to a meaningful level for my special education students. I love the curriculum that has been developed, however adapting is very time consuming so in my classroom it is more of an activity rather than curriculum. However, today I was blown away by the idea of a Journal. To see Will Steger's journal and also the Botany Journal was fabulous and gave me a great idea for my students who are mostly non-verbal, non-writing, etc. My idea is to have my students keep an explorer's journal. I plan to have my students spend 10-15 minutes outside every day and "Look Up, Look Down, Look Around". They will then keep a separate notebook for each day that could for example: the color of the sky, temperature (cold or hot), weather (sunny, cloudy, rainy, windy, or snowy), pick a flower or leaf and paste it in the book and identify (color, etc). (Joan Duncanson Teacher DCD Bridge View School)

Today I attended the Institute for Global Climate Change. The highlight was an impressive list of speakers that are at the forefront of the movement to bring about policy change in the U.S. Throughout the day it became clear that there is a consilience of evidence to show the impact of human emissions on global climate. Dr. Naomi Oreskes gave a surprising explanation of why the U.S. continues to delay taking a world lead on global warming. I will definitely go buy her book, Merchants of Doubt to learn more. The afternoon was spent looking at the resources available to teachers and how to get students involved. Abby Fenton used her amazing energy to show how she gets youth involved and what YEA MN is. The day was permeated by the passion of Will Steger himself, first of all talking about how he became an explorer and educator. He then continued to move about the group and quietly talked with participants and connected with as many as possible. I am so glad that I spent one of my summer days here, it was a great way to get motivated for the upcoming school year. (Lauren)IMG_3401

I was surprised to hear that every ice shelf Will traveled across on his first expedition is now gone. I was also surprised to hear that 3 free market fundamentalists began the campaign of doubt against global warming that pervades the media’s coverage of the issue today. Not to mention that these same people mounted the same campaign to discredit the science behind the effects of second-hand smoke, acid rain, and the severity of the ozone hole.  Mark Seeley’s voice has brought me joy on many Friday morning trips to school. I was so excited to hear from him in person today, and learned a lot about evidence of global warming in Minnesota and the consequences that we are facing or will face as the earth continues to warm. Especially notable was the impact of global warming on minimum temperatures, and frequency and duration of precipitation.  I plan on reading through the curriculum we have been given to help me plan my AP environmental science unit on climate change. I am excited to have these resources at my fingertips.  I am thinking of creating a weekly homework assignment of nature journaling with an emphasis on phenology. We could work in photographs as well, and it could lead in to a final project that the kids present to their classmates at the end of the year. I think it might be more powerful if they do this somewhere in their own community, then I don’t have to worry about keeping tabs on 30 kids each hour. I think it is important they have the freedom in these journals to draw, sketch, paste pictures, leaves or what ever else they can dream up to make it meaningful to them. (Jessica Ley)

Summer Institute 2010 Recap

SI-picOur 2010 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education marked our fifth year of offering in-person professional development workshops for educators. This year we took time to “Go Back to the Basics.” This year’s Institute featured keynote speakers, Dr. Naomi Oreskes, climate historian and author of Merchants of Doubt; University of Minnesota climatologist, Mark Seeley, and a new presentation by Will Steger on his history of online education. We were able to offer scholarships to educators from out-state Minnesota, reaching 75 educators in person and via webinar. The Institute provided educators with an understanding of why climate misinformation persists and the tools to respond to those in doubt, by getting back to the basics of climate science and climate change education methods. In addition participants received a special sneak preview of the Foundation’s new curriculum, Minnesota’s Changing Climate, using Will’s lifelong archives to highlight Minnesota’s changing climate.

Summer Insitute 2010 Presenter Videos:

Krsiten Poppleton Forum Oreskes Forum
Our 2010 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education marked our fifth year of offering in-person professional development workshops for educators. This year we took time to “Go Back to the Basics.”

Here, Kristen Poppleton, K12 Education Program Manager and Nicole Rom, Executive Director open the 2010 session.

Dr. Naomi Oreskes, climate historian and author of Merchants of Doubt joined us for a reception and public forum where she spoke to over 250 people about the tactics used by corporations to confuse and misinform the public of the validity of climate science. She also captured the attention of educators at our 5th annual Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, who were most interested in understanding climate change basics and tools to address the topic in the classroom.

Will Steger Nalani McCutcheon
Will Steger gives his "Eyewitness" presentation. "Bringing Climate Change to the Classroom" with Nalani McCutcheon, Cannon River STEM School.


Educators participate in a hands-on activity.
  • Presentation: Overview of Will Steger Foundation: Nicole Rom: Executive Director, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (15.72 MB)
  • Presentation: A History of Online Adventure Education: Will Steger: Polar Explorer and Founder, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (12.64 MB)
  • Presentation: An Introduction to "Minnesota's Changing Climate" Curriculum: Kristen Poppleton: Education Program Manager, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (1.42 MB) Accompanying Video (79.76 MB)
  • Presentation: Weather vs. Climate: Dr. Mark Seeley: University of Minnesota climatologist - PDF (33.95 MB) Accompanying Video (173.18 MB)
  • Keynote Presentation: Dr. Naomi Oreskes: Climate historian, author: Merchants of Doubt - PDF (20.36 MB)
  • IMG_0427-reduced
    The incredible spread of organic and local food thanks to our food sponsors!
  • Presentation: Bringing Climate Change to the Classroom: Nalani McCutcheon: Director, Cannon River STEM School (Available Soon)
  • Presentation: Will Steger Foundation Website and Education Resources, Kristen Poppleton: Education Program Manager, Will Steger Foundation - PDF (3.38 MB)
  • Presentation: Youth Engagement, Abby Fenton: Director of Youth Programs, Will Steger Foundation; RE-AMP Youth Climate Coordinator (Available Soon)
  • Closing Presentation: Dr. Carolyn Breedlove: Project Manager for Green Initiatives, National Education Association - PDF (883 KB)



Thursday, 29 July 2010 15:19

Five Reasons Why...

Throughout the last few months we have been busy planning for our Fifth Annual Institute for Climate Change Education on August 12 from 8:30-4:30(CST) at the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus.  Here are five reasons why we think you should join us, whether in person or virtually via webinar!

Educ0081. Our keynote speaker is Naomi Oreskes. She will be talking about the misinformation campaign that has persisted surrounding the issue of climate change. Her new book Merchants of Doubt, coauthored with Erik Conway, has been the subject of many articles, blog posts and conferences in the last few months.  Here are a few examples:  Climate Progress, Star Tribune, Time, yale360.

2. We will be unveiling our new project, Engaging Students in Environmental Conservation Through Adventure Learning, recently funded by Minnesota's Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

3. We have participants from all over the state of Minnesota and the country flying in and participating via webinar that you will have the opportunity to network with!

4. We will be presenting a new funding opportunity for schools and youth available due to our new partnership with the British Council.

5. An excellent lunch will be included donated from local vendors!

Register now! Scholarships available!

Thursday, 22 July 2010 14:04

When the Kids Call for Better Behavior

This opinion piece was posted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today and we thought it was worth sharing.  It raises another important reason that we as educators should be teaching kids about climate change in the classroom; Parent Education and Awareness.  It often takes the concerns of ones own child to bring the importance of an issue to the surface.  Mr. Commers provides us with the perspective of a parent, educated by his children, willing to take some part of the blame, but also willing to be part of the solution.


When Kids Call for Better Behavior

What makes the parent of young children more anxious – the responsibility of teaching the important lessons, or the knowledge that we’re still learning those lessons ourselves?

Recently, as my elementary-age children have drawn an interest in news, we have had more conversation about climate change. This winter's dumping of thirty-two inches of snow on Washington, D.C. caught their attention due to jealousy, but also concern. Recent reporting that Lake Superior’s temperature is substantially warmer this year than normal also prompted talk.

Based on my sample size of two, kids aren’t just aware of climate change and some of its potential impact. And they aren’t afraid of it, so to speak. But they are absolutely serious about responding to global trends with immediate, concrete behavior change. They gave me multiple suggestions for how. Here are a few:

* Compete against your own driving. Set a limit for how many miles you will drive this week. Reduce the limit regularly. Call it car limbo.

* Grow food in the backyard if you have one, and create greenhouses together for winter growing. Why eat food from far away?

* Use a compost. You can put all of your corn husks and apple cores in it, and then it turns into dirt without having to drive it anywhere.

* If you sell things in plastic containers, you should take them back to recycle them (hear that, grocery stores?)

These are mostly relatively simple measures to implement for many of us, and they're increments toward a solution. But the kids don’t stop here. The immediacy and concreteness of their recommendations become more clear with ideas like:

* Add trees all over. Replace some of the streets with trees. Shrink the city.

* Change the city so that people don’t need to drive across town to go from their home to their work.

At times, these conversations have shifted into early forms of generational charges: Dad, your generation and all the others have blown it big time. We’re not going to face the music with baby steps, so get moving. And they’re right. Attempting to explain why some of these recommendations aren’t a matter of course is dicey territory. Don’t even try suggesting to them that politics present a legitimate reason for inaction. There are plenty of ways I continue to develop and guide my children’s behavior, and in doing so hopefully convey larger lessons about life. At the same time, in cases like these exchanges about “going green,” they serve to develop and guide my behavior, too. We’re all better for it.

By Jon Commers, founder and principal of Donjek, Incorporated. His projects focus on navigating placemakers - planners, developers, engineers - through financial feasibility and analysis, with an emphasis on facilitating public-private sector negotiations.

This week we have been busy working with a group of college students from Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Portugal and France. They are here through the University of Minnesota's Office of International Studies and are studying Climate Change andIMG_2988 Sustainability for five weeks. We have been lucky to host them for a few days up at Will's homestead outside Ely teaching them about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, as well as discussing issues of climate change policy at an international level. It is always exciting for us as at the Foundation to meet with youth from other countries and to have time to have a dialogue on climate change from a global perspective. For one activity, we pulled from our Citizen Climate curriculum a lesson on equity in climate negotiations, and discussed different definitions of equity.  Our discussion was all the more rich because of the diversity of nations represented in our group.  Here are a few photos of the group in action both using their brains and using their hands!


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