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Climate Champions Convenes Partners Focused on K12 Teaching and Learning


University, K12 and community partners practice modeling climate phenomena and Earth systems using Understanding Global Change.


The Climate Champions Design Summit, March 14-15, 2023, brought together the SoCal Extreme Heat Research Hub at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the San Diego Science Project (SDSP) at CREATE to support K12 teaching and learning about climate within an Earth systems framework. Forty-five leaders and educators from five school districts, the San Diego County Office of Education, and environmental education organizations learned how to model relationships across Earth’s geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere using Understanding Global Change (UGC).

Climate Champions Design Summit participants compared three visualizations of satellite data showing surface features, land surface temperature, and normalized difference vegetation index.


Educators focused their conceptual models on phenomena related to land surface, temperature, and vegetation, connected with SoCal Heat Hub science. In small groups, they examined visual data and asked: What do we notice? What do we wonder? They tapped their collective knowledge and worked together to deepen their understanding of solar radiation, vegetation, and urban heat islands while simultaneously learning how to use UGC to make their thinking visible.

K12 educators enjoyed hands-on science experiments related to photosynthesis and heat absorption.


Educators at the Climate Champions Design Summit also helped to answer an essential question. Where can science from the SoCal Heat Hub best integrate into K12 science? Over the next two years, we will collaborate with K12 partners to co-develop curriculum resources that are equity-centered, phenomena-focused, data-rich, and NGSS-aligned. We aim to connect science-based understanding of extreme heat and how vegetation cools local environments with action opportunities, such as planting trees, growing edible gardens, and nurturing native plant communities.


In a warming world, extreme heat has tremendous relevance to everyone, including K12 students and their teachers. Many school yards, with abundant hardscape and scant vegetation, present immediate opportunities to investigate heat-related phenomena and how to improve microclimates. K12 students and teachers will also learn that, within a global context, working with plants can help us both mitigate and adapt to climate change, with many potential benefits for healthier people and ecosystems.


The next Climate Champions Design Summit, September 12-13, 2023 at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Teaching teams are invited to apply here by July 31.


In the garden at World Beat Cultural Center in Balboa Park, educators connected natural climate solutions involving plants with other benefits related to growing food, biodiversity, and social-emotional well-being.


UC San Diego Climate Champions Design Summit March 2023 organizers: Alec Barron, San Diego Science Project, CREATE; Jessica Bean, UC Berkeley Understanding Global Change; Nan Renner, Birch Aquarium at Scripps and CREATE; Cheryl Peach, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Maren Hale, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. All are part of the SoCal Heat Hub and contribute to the five-year project Heatwaves in the southern California coastal zone: their oceanic and atmospheric drivers, human health impacts, and sustainable adaptation (NSF#2209058).


Many thanks to UC San Diego Park and Market for hosting this convening.


Text and photos by Nan Renner, Co-Principal Investigator focused on Education to Broaden Participation in the SoCal Heat Hub.






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