Teaching Toward the Future: Adaptation and Climate Change

Guest post by, Bill Zoellick, Schoodic Institute Education Research Director

Teaching Toward the Future: Adaptation and Climate Change

“I touch the future … I teach” — a quotation associated with Christa McAuliffe — captures something essential about the motivation and hope that keeps most of the teachers I know doing what they do. One of the things that makes teaching about climate change difficult is that it can seem to cast a shadow on that hope. 

This past Monday my colleague Hannah Webber and I teamed up with a young climate change biologist named Chris Nadeau to offer a pair of workshops at the 2017 RiSE Center Conference. Chris, a research fellow supported by the Second Century Stewardship program at Schoodic Institute, focuses on understanding how climate change will affect plants and animals. You can learn more about his research here. The big idea behind our workshop was that as soon as you start trying to think about how increases in temperature due to climate change might impact different species in different parts of the world, you quickly find that you need to use a lot of what we know about ecology, evolution, and the geography of climate and climate change to construct plausible scenarios. We decided to involve teachers in such scenario building to see what they thought of it as a way to get their students thinking scientifically. We hoped it might provide a different approach to engaging kids with climate change–getting them thinking about it as a problem to understand rather than as this massive, frightening thing that is too big to comprehend. The teachers in the workshops (about 35 in all) ranged from Kindergarten through high school.

   Read the full account HERE.

Bill Zoellick serves as principal co-investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded grant titled “Pathway to BioTrails: DNA-assisted Species Identification for Citizen Science” (DRL 1223210 ) and as a senior researcher on an NSF funded math-science partnership (MSP) project titled “Maine Physical Sciences Curriculum Partnership” (DUE 0962805), where his research focuses on project scaling, sustainability, and teacher learning through participation in communities of practice. He has served as principal investigator on three successive MSP projects funded by the State of Maine as well as on a NOAA B-WET project titled “Acadia B-WET: a partnership to help teachers engage students in sustained, project-oriented investigations of eel population and distribution in coastal watershed systems.” Bill was educated at the University of Illinois and returned to education research following a 30-year career in computer science, software development, and management consulting.