Climate Change Fellows Spotlight: Sea level science education for a changing climate

Person holding a globe

By Kelsey Abernathy

Published May 6, 2019

When thinking of climate action, few think of education first. However, climate change is an intergenerational challenge, and its solutions must involve the next generation. In that sense, equipping the next generation with the knowledge of climate change impacts, and climate change solutions, is a key component of climate action.

A group of Climate Fellows has taken on the challenge of developing a week-long classroom curriculum module for middle schools in Chatham County, Georgia that uses sea level data to explore concepts such as flood risk and sea level rise. Communities throughout coastal Georgia are already experiencing the impacts of sea level rise; so the curriculum is relevant to the students’ own experiences with episodes of past flood events.

In the text that follows, lead PIs Jayma Koval, a Researcher with the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), and Dr. Alexander Robel, an Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, answer a few questions about their project.

What is the main goal of your project?

We designed a curriculum module for middle school earth science classes that incorporates the topics of tides, sea-level rise, climate change and data analysis and visualization within the context of coastal flooding in the Savannah and Tybee Island communities. The curriculum connects with the Smart Sea Level Sensors Project, which is one of four projects under the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge.

How will you go about implementing your project?

There are 3 stages in the life of this project: research and development, classroom implementation and feedback, and revision. The curriculum and activities will be piloted in late spring by our partner teacher, Rebecca Greenbush of Oglethorpe Charter Middle School, and her students. After the curriculum is implemented, Ms. Greenbush will provide feedback on how the curriculum and activities performed and any modifications that she made. We will then revise the curriculum and prepare it to be disseminated to additional teachers.

How does it fit into the larger context?

This module is our first step in developing sea-level curriculum and professional learning experiences that would benefit students and teachers in K-12 courses and higher education. Developing understanding of the factors which influence sea level are critical for achieving the dual goals of preparing for and adapting to sea level rise and mitigating even greater sea level rise through reduction in future greenhouse gas emission. This curriculum module has the potential to serve as a resource for enabling teachers to teach climate science effectively and accurately while situating learners to how climate change and sea level rise could impact the Savannah and Tybee Island communities.

To learn more about this project, click here. This project was funded by the Climate Fellows program. For a full list of funded Climate Fellows projects and more information about the program, click here. For more information on the Smart Sea Level Sensors project, click here.