Improving Climate Change Education

NSF grant allows USF to develop climate change education program for Hillsborough County high schools.


By Adam Freeman

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 19, 2013) – Students from about 25 Hillsborough County high schools will learn about the complex science behind global climate change through a new program designed to make it more personally relevant and easier to understand.


The Climate Change Narrative Game Education (CHANGE) project will create a curriculum for high school marine sciences classes that uses situations, settings, and scientific data specific to the West Central Florida region. The program will also include hands-on activities and an eBook novel with accompanying computer games simulating the long-term effects of climate change.


“To teenagers, the personal impact of climate change is often lost in complexity and remote time scales. A web-based novel, with computer games, talks to teenagers in their own media language,” said project director Glenn Smith, an Associate Professor in the University of South Florida’s Department of Secondary Education.


Smith is developing the project along with USF faculty members Allan Feldman, Yiping Lou, and Ping Wang, as well as partners from Hillsborough County Public Schools. It’s funded by a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.


“We believe that the problems associated with climate change are among the most important questions that we face. Therefore, it is imperative that current high school students learn the science behind it. What we have seen, however, is that the complexity of the topic makes it difficult for students to get a good grasp of it,” said Feldman, a USF Professor of Science Education.


By fall 2014, the curriculum will be taught in four Hillsborough County high schools. The following year, it will be expanded to more than two dozen high schools.


The project also aims to advance global climate change education by reaching minority and low-income students, who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields and less engaged in science and engineering decision-making.


“Hillsborough County Public Schools is excited to once again partner with the University of South Florida on our second climate change education related project,” said Larry Plank, the district’s director of K-12 STEM education, “The current project will allow us to teach climate science to high school students utilizing computer simulations - allowing us to meet students in a virtual environment they feel comfortable navigating within. The project will be of great importance at our newest STEM magnet school, Jefferson High, where students are studying marine science and sustainability with support from USF and the Florida Aquarium.”


While the program will be implemented in Hillsborough County, the developers hope it can serve as a model for additional schools throughout the state of Florida to adopt.


Adam Freeman can be reached at 813-974-9047.