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NASA's Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment


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Section 6.1 Professional Development for Environmental Educators (Earth to Sky)

Point of contact--Anita Davis
Facilitates incorporating ABoVE research and results into Earth to Sky materials.
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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.
Earth to Sky – Alaska course participants and leaders. Anchorage, AK October 2015

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!)

Chip Miller, ABoVE Deputy Science Team Lead presents to Earth to Sky – Alaska course participants. Anchorage, AK October 2015

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.

Earth to Sky Workshops
Earth to Sky Interpreting Climate Change Workshop National Association for Interpretation
November 13-15, 2017
Spokane, WA
Earth to Sky Regional Workshop
April 19–21, 2017
Yellowknife, NWT, Canada
Earth to Sky Returns to Alaska
Oct 21, 2016
Fairbanks, AK
Professional Development Events
  • June 2016: Laura Prugh delivered a webinar to the Earth to Sky community on using Dall sheep as bellwethers of alpine ecosystem health.
  • May 2017: Peter Griffith delivered a webinar to the Earth to Sky community on updates on the ABoVE campaign.
  • November 2017: Laura Prugh presented at an Earth to Sky course in Spokane, WA, on feedbacks between climate change and wildlife.
  • October 2019: Peter Griffith delivered a presentation on Earth systems science at the inaugural Earth to Sky Academy to the first group of Earth to Sky Regional Leaders.
  • March 2020: Laura Prugh presented at a webinar for Earth to Sky Regional Leaders, providing an overview of her lab's science and discussing the experience of being coached as a subject matter expert presenter for an Earth to Sky course.
  • February 2021: Peter Griffith presented on Earth systems science at the first webinar for the Coastal Alaska regional Earth to Sky community.