American Meteorological Society and Second Nature Partner to Strengthen Climate and Sustainability-Focused Curricula at Minority-Serving Institutions

February 7, 2012

By James Brey, Director, AMS Education Program and Elizabeth Mills, Associate Director, AMS Education Program

(This article appears in the February, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) GeoVision reportunderscores the critical need for increasing public literacy in the geosciences. Daily, Americans learn about threats to the Earth, such as the peril of global climate change and the increasing frequency of natural and manmade hazards.  It is imperative the public gain a deeper understanding of the underlying scientific processes that influence these events. It also is essential that our educational system and workforce reflect our diversity as a nation.

To this end, NSF is supporting a long-term partnership betweenAmerican Meteorological Society (AMS) and Second Nature to introduce the AMS Climate Studies course to 100 Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) nationwide.  The course is a ready-made way for MSIs to strengthen the curriculum component of their ACUPCC Climate Action Plans and provide students with an up-to-date study of climate science, including global change and sustainability issues.

Faculty members are invited to an expenses-paid, five-day course implementation workshop in Washington, DC, to learn the latest in climate science. The implementation workshop, offered annually for a four-year period beginning in May 2012, will leverage the climate expertise of scientists from NASANOAA, and many other DC area educational and research institutions.  NASA supported the development of AMS Climate Studies and the course is rich with real world and current Earth Observing System data. Faculty are also invited to attend a diversity workshop and present their AMS Climate Studies course experience at the AMS Annual Meeting.

To apply, go to the AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project website and submit theproject license order form and application form.  (For the upcoming 20-25 May 2012 course implementation workshop, applications must be received by March 20th.) Eligible minority-serving institutions include two- and four-year institutions that are designated as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions, and other institutions with large minority student populations (more than 25% of total enrollment).

Participating faculty will introduce and enhance sustainability-focused curricula in the year following workshop attendance by implementing the AMS Climate Studiescourse at their institutions. AMS undergraduate studies courses (ClimateWeather, and Ocean) are turnkey packages containing both printed and online learning materials developed by AMS staff scientists and science educators.  The courses each include a comprehensive 15-chapter textbook, Investigations Manual with 30 laboratory-style activities, course website containing current science investigations and real-time data, faculty website, and faculty resource CD. These courses are suitable for classroom or online learning environments.  Course activities and test banks can be ported into a college’s course management system for automated scoring and immediate student feedback.  This feature allows for full integration into a college’s e-learning environment.

AMS Climate Studies is an innovative local-national teaching partnership.  AMS Education staff members are available to answer all administrative and content-related questions.  In addition, each new course instructor has the option of being connected with a faculty advisor experienced in teaching the course.  This mentoring system, along with the turnkey course design, allows AMS Climate Studies to be offered by science faculty with a wide range of backgrounds and science teaching experience.

The AMS Climate Studies Diversity Project is a fresh version of a proven model. Through NSF support spanning 2002-2009, 145 MSIs introduced the Weathercourse and 75 introduced Ocean with course instructors participating in implementation and diversity workshops. Over two-thirds of the MSIs in the Diversity Project continued to offer the course beyond their initial semester, and more than 18,000 students have taken the courses.  About 50 MSIs introduced both Weather and Ocean.

The Diversity Project closely aligns with the goals of the ACUPCC, which states that institutions “must exercise leadership in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions, and by providing the knowledge and the educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality.”  The Project strongly supports the diversity initiatives of Second Nature. Through its capacity building initiative, Advancing Green Building in Higher Education, Second Nature works with under-resourced and minority-serving institutions, enabling them to embrace holistic sustainability on their campuses. Via its multifaceted programs, Second Nature has worked with nearly 50 MSIs and developed a formal partnership with the United Negro College Fund, in addition to establishing connections with theHispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. Second Nature’s relationships with institutions of diverse missions and networks focused on sustainability and climate education enables AMS to connect with MSI administrators and faculty committed to curricula change.

The following authors also contributed to this article:
Joseph Moran, Associate Director
Robert Weinbeck, Associate Professor, State University of New York, The College at Brockport
Ira Geer, Senior Education Fellow
Kira Nugnes, Program Assistant
Kathryn O’Neill, Content Specialist
Maureen Moses, Program Assistant

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