Section 6.1 Professional Development for Environmental Educators (Earth to Sky)
The Earth to Sky partnership (ETS) leverages the unique strengths of NASA, the National Park Service (NPS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), working together to design and produce professional development for interpreters and environmental educators, and to build, sustain and expand a community of practice in science education and communication. Since 2008 the partnership has focused on the topic of climate change.
ETS distance learning, blended, and face-to-face courses enable participants to access and use relevant NASA science, data, and educational and outreach products in their work, particularly in communicating about climate change. NASA-funded scientists present synopses of their research on topics of relevance to parks, refuges and other protected areas, and join in dialogue with participants about science and communication techniques. Each participant develops an action plan to use course content at their work site for educating the public, teachers and students. Evaluation efforts have demonstrated that the vast majority of participants implement some aspect of their action plans. Participants have used course content in Visitor Center exhibits, news articles, guided walks, podcasts, websites, internal and external newsletters, brochures, curriculum-based programs, teacher training, peer training, and more.
ETS courses are offered as NPS and/or USFWS official agency training, and are listed in the Department of Interior’s DOI Learn catalog of available courses. Upon completion of a course, federal participants receive official recognition as part of the individual’s work record. Non-federal participants are also encouraged to attend, and cross-collaboration among all attendees is highly encouraged. No tuition is charged.
The ETS partnership is a well-proven model for effective partnership and professional development. Since its inception in 2004, ETS has enabled NASA scientists and educators to train over 700 interpreters and environmental educators, who in turn have reached well over 4 million National Park and Wildlife Refuge visitors and trained over 2,000 educators. The ETS community is nurtured via a growing listserv of about 450 members, a Facebook group, webinars, and project website.
With support from the ABoVE campaign, in 2015-2016 the partnership planned and piloted in Alaska a new regionally-focused course which featured several ABoVE funded scientists’ presentations. By early 2016, many of 30 participants were well into implementing the action plans they developed during the course, and plans were underway for follow up courses and other professional development events in Alaska.
Based upon this successful pilot, additional ETS regional courses on climate change science and communication are planned for a variety of locations. The partnership plans to use ABoVE content in every regional course, featuring the connections between the processes at work in the Arctic and the rest of the world as a key component for illustrating Earth System Science. (What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic!)
During the ABoVE Campaign, Earth to Sky will conduct a series of professional development events highlighting research in the campaign’s domain. Events will include additional courses based upon the successful model completed in 2015-2016, presentations at regional and national education and science conferences, and distance-learning opportunities such as webinars and self-study modules.
Earth to Sky will also support ABoVE scientists by facilitating connections with land managers in the research domain, via the ETS network of participants and listserv members. As the ETS Alaska community grows and becomes more cohesive, opportunities for ABoVE scientist participation in ETS members’ outreach events will also expand. Through these endeavors, ETS will assist the ABoVE team in connecting with local and regional stakeholders and their communities.