Community Collaboration as a Culturally-Relevant Approach to Climate Change Programming and Mitigation

October 1st, 2021 - September 30th, 2023 | PROJECT

Communities with the highest risk of climate change impacts may also be least able to respond and adapt to climate change, which highlights a specific need for inclusive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strategies. This Pilot and Feasibility project builds on the success of US Cooperative Extension Service programs that empower volunteers to conduct outreach in their own communities. It focuses on climate change, and seeks to co-design an informal STEM climate science curriculum, called Climate Stewards, in collaboration with community members from groups often underrepresented in STEM, including indigenous and Latinx communities, as well as rural women. The project is designed to strengthen community awareness as well as prioritize community voices in climate change conversations. The knowledge and skills obtained by Climate Stewards and their communities will allow for more involvement in decisions related to climate adaptation and mitigation in their communities and beyond. After establishing a proof of concept, the project seeks to expand this work to more rural and urban communities, other communities of color, and additional socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.

Grounded in the theory of diffusion of innovation as a means for volunteers to communicate information to members of a social system, this project seeks co-create a retooled Climate Stewards curriculum using inclusive and adaptive strategies. Community collaboration and involvement through new and existing partnerships, focus groups, and meetings will determine what each community needs. During the program design phase, community members can share their concerns regarding climate change as well as the unique characteristics and cultural perspectives that should be addressed. The collaboration between extension and education leverage resources that are important for developing a robust implementation and evaluation process. This project is expected to have a significant influence on local and national programs that are looking to incorporate climate change topics into their programming and/or broaden their reach to underrepresented communities. The hypotheses tested in this project describe how inclusion-based approaches may influence competencies in STEM topics and their impact on communities, specifically willingness to take action. Hypothesis 1: STEM competencies in climate issues increase with interactive and peer learning approaches. Hypothesis 2: Community participation in the co-creation of knowledge about climate change, by integrating their values and objectives into the climate change education program, increases people's motivation to become engaged in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

This Pilot and Feasibility project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Patricia Townsend, Principal Investigator, Washington State University
Roslynn McCann, Co-Principal Investigator
Melissa Kreye, Co-Principal Investigator
Arthur Nash, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2115712
Funding Amount: $300,000


Access and Inclusion: Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities | Indigenous and Tribal Communities | Low Socioeconomic Status | Rural | Urban | Women and Girls
Audience: General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Climate
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Community Outreach Programs | Public Programs

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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