Perhaps unable to convince older Americans of the severity of global warming, President Barack Obama is hoping to have better luck with the next generation by turning to the classroom.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Wednesday announced it will launch a new initiative aimed at climate education and literacy that will distribute science-based information – in line with the administration's position on the issue – to students, teachers and the broader public.
Educators, government officials, philanthropic leaders and those from the private sector will participate in a roundtable discussion at the White House Wednesday. The participants will focus on how to spread more resources to teachers and increase professional development and training related to climate change for educators, federal employees and informal educators, such as those working in national parks, museums, aquariums or botanic gardens.
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"If you believe, like I do, that something has to be done on this, then you're going to have to speak out," Obama said in June at the University of California–Irvine commencement ceremony. "You've got to educate your classmates, and colleagues, and family members and fellow citizens, and tell them what's at stake."
With many states transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards, opposition to issues such as climate change and evolution has resurfaced with a new intensity. At least 12 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, which place an increased emphasis on the controversial topics and were developed by a group of national science and education organizations – including one also involved in developing the Common Core State Standards.
A Gallup analysis in April showed that 1 in 4 Americans are global warming skeptics and are not worried much or at all about it. All of those deemed skeptics said the rise in the Earth's temperature is due to natural changes in the environment, rather than pollution, and that global warming will not pose a serious threat in the future.
Meanwhile, a separate survey from Yale and George Mason universities found just more than half of Americans – 55 percent – said they were at least somewhat worried about global warming, while only 11 percent said they were very worried about it. The same poll found 66 percent of Americans think global warming is happening, and that half of Americans think global warming – if it is occurring – is largely human-caused.
The White House initiative pulls together more than two dozen advocacy and education groups from more than 30 states that responded to a call for increased leadership in climate education made by the administration in October. Some of the groups include the Chicago Botanic Garden, the American Meteorological Society, the Alliance for Climate Education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Philadelphia School and the Green Schools Alliance.
The groups will provide fellowship programs, teacher training opportunities and increased attention to public education on climate change through museums, aquariums, botanic gardens and zoos. The combined efforts are expected to reach millions of students, teachers, federal employees and visitors to national parks and public nature facilities.
The National Park Service, for example, will develop a plan by the end of 2015 that will help employees create and deliver "effective climate change messages in the programs and exhibits" in national parks, according to a fact sheet from the White House. Each year, more than 270 million people visit the 401 national parks.
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with other science agencies, will create digital game prototypes that teachers and students can use to learn more about climate change. And the Alliance for Climate Education plans to bring more than 150,000 high school students to a program on climate science education, and will train 80 students as "climate leaders" through its Action Fellowship.