ACE Hosts Successful Pilot Program: Teacher Professional Development Workshop

For three hot days in August 2013, fifteen teachers and two ACE staff met in a classroom in Sacramento, California to experience ACE’s first ever teacher professional development workshop. The workshop was titled Climate Change in the Next Generation Classroom and focused on helping teachers prepare to teach climate, climate change and energy in line with the newly released Next Generation Science Standards.

ACE’s Deputy Director of Education, Rebecca Anderson, led the teachers through three days of hands-on science lessons and engaging presentations with support from ACE Program Manager Shana DeClercq. The workshop was held in the tech-ready and well-equipped Media Center at Natomas Charter School in Sacramento.

ACE owes a debt of gratitude to the six guest speakers that appeared all throughout the workshop. Fran Moore of Stanford University spoke on the impacts of climate change, particularly on agriculture. Katie Mach, also of Stanford, spoke on the work of Working Group II on the upcoming 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. IPCC Working Group II focuses on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change. Katie Benedict from UC Davis spoke about air pollution and its connection to climate change and human health. Jim Benedict from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab spoke about climate modeling and a peculiar phenomenon called the MJO, the Madden-Julian Oscillation. One teacher reported, “I loved having information from actual scientists…that I can reference.”

9469589726_4ddd4fd75eThroughout the workshop, teachers engaged in hands-on activities that ranged from measuring energy output from various light bulbs to using online climate models. One activity included acting out the “molecule dance” that greenhouse gases perform when they absorb and emit heat. No matter how zany the activities may have appeared, each was grounded in making climate science real and relevant to students.

Many of these lesson plans were developed by the Little Shop of Physics at Colorado State University (ACE’s workshop was partly modeled after CSU’s climate and weather workshop for teachers). Chris Liske from the California Office of Education and the Environment shared the free California Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curricula with teachers and David Gibson of Envirolution led the teachers through an energy audit exercise. (Lesson learned: The most energy intensive appliance in the building was the instant hot water heater for tea. Who would have guessed?)

The teachers themselves-primarily high school science teachers from all around Sacramento-were an integral part of the teaching during the workshop, discussing ways to adapt lessons to fit their classroom and sharing favorite online resources with the group (did you know that Bill Nye, the science guy, tweets?).

Overall, the workshop was a great success, with teachers, ACE staff, and climate scientists all learning from each other. As one teacher said: “The workshop was a great combination of science, best practices and what’s next in education and academia.” ACE looks forward to hosting its next teacher workshop soon – but until then, sign up for our teacher newsletter and keep tabs on our curricula page for great tips on teaching climate science.

Rebecca Anderson

Rebecca Anderson is ACE’s Director of Education. She came to ACE in its inception in 2008. Rebecca develops ACE's science content, manages the online climate education resource Our Climate Our Future, oversees the ACE Teacher Network, and works with schools in the Reno-Tahoe area. Prior to ACE, she did paleoclimate research in the Arctic and Antarctica.