Ice Worlds: A Giant Screen Film and Outreach Project

October 1st, 2021 - September 30th, 2024 | PROJECT

The Ice Worlds media project will inspire millions of children and adults to gain new knowledge about polar environments, the planet’s climate, and humanity’s place within Earth’s complex systems—supporting an informed, STEM literate citizenry. Featuring the NSF-funded THOR expedition to Thwaites glacier, along with contributions of many NSF-supported researchers worldwide, Ice Worlds will share the importance of investments in STEM with audiences in giant screen theaters, on television, online, and in other informal settings. Primary project deliverables include a giant screen film, a filmmaking workshop for Native American middle school students that will result in a documentary, a climate storytelling professional development program for informal educators, and a knowledge-building summative evaluation. The project’s largest target audience is middle school learners (ages 11-14); specific activities are designed for Native American youth and informal science practitioners. Innovative outreach will engage youth underserved in science inspiring a new generation of scientists and investigative thinkers. The project’s professional development programs will build the capacity of informal educators to engage communities and communicate science. The Ice Worlds project is a collaboration among media producers Giant Screen Films, Natural History New Zealand, PBS, and Academy Award nominated film directors (Yes/No Productions). Additional collaborators include Northwestern University, The American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Native American Journalism Association, a group of museum and science center partners, and a team of advisors including scientific and Indigenous experts associated with the NSF-funded Study of Environmental Arctic Change initiative.

The goals of the project are: 1) to increase public understanding of the processes and consequences of environmental change in polar ecosystems, 2) to explore the effectiveness of the giant screen format to impart knowledge, inspire motivation and caring for nature, 3) to improve middle schoolers’ interest, confidence and engagement in STEM topics and pursuits—broadly and through a specific program for Native American youth, and 4) to build informal educators’ capacity to share stories of climate change in their communities. The main evaluation questions are 1) to what extent does the Ice World film affect learning, engagement, and motivation around STEM pursuits and environmental problem solving 2) what is the added value of companion media for youth’s giant screen learning over short and longer term, and 3) what are the impacts of the culturally based Native American youth workshops.

The evaluation work will involve a Native American youth advisory panel and a panel of science center practitioners in the giant screen film’s development and evaluation process. Formative evaluation of the film will involve recruiting youth from diverse backgrounds, including representation of Native youth, to see the film in the giant screen theater of a partner site. Post viewing surveys and group discussions will explore their experience of the film with respect to engagement, learning, evoking spatial presence, and motivational impact. A summative evaluation of the completed film will assess its immediate and longer term impacts. Statistical analyses will be conducted on all quantitative data generated from the evaluation, including a comparison of pre and post knowledge scores. An evaluation of the Tribal Youth Media program will include a significant period of formative evaluation and community engagement to align activities to the needs and interests of participating students. Culturally appropriate measures, qualitative methods and frameworks will be used to assess the learning impacts. Data will be analyzed to determine learning impacts of the workshop on youth participants as well as mentors and other stakeholder participants. Evaluation of the community climate storytelling professional development component will include lessons learned and recommendations for implementation.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2023 AISL Awardee Mini-Poster: 2116070

Team Members

Deborah Raksany, Principal Investigator, Giant Screen Films
Karen Elinich, Co-Principal Investigator
Andrew Wood, Co-Principal Investigator
Patricia Loew, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2116070
Funding Amount: $1,296,594.00


Access and Inclusion: Ethnic | Racial | Indigenous and Tribal Communities
Audience: General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Computing and information science | Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Geoscience and geography
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Films and IMAX | Media and Technology | 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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