September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Climate Change Adaptation: Students Have a Role

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

by Phyllis Grifman and Linda Chilton

As leaders of society’s next generation, teachers foster and facilitate learning and help prepare students to engage intellectually as well as socially. Students can learn the principles of stewardship and conservation and they are inspired to become decision makers and problem solvers today and in the future. This is especially important in addressing climate change. The impacts of climate change require both mitigation, reducing our use of fossil fuels and shifting to more conservative use of resources; and adaptation, preparing our communities to be more resilient in responding to the impacts of climate change.

Since the science of climate change and its many applications are still in nascent stages, many educators do not yet have the background understanding to develop what is needed to prepare students for addressing these critical concepts. In the Los Angeles region, the ocean interface with the massive urban development is under increased pressure from the impacts of growing population and climate change. Because the impacts brought by sea level rise are not uniform around the world, they must be examined in a regional context under a lens that accounts for other physical factors such as El Niño/La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and changing storm patterns. Educators need the tools to bring focus to these factors in order to educate the next generation to predict the potential impacts of climate change and urban pressures on the Los Angeles region.

Factors that must be considered when considering vulnerabilities to any hazards, including climate change, include

  • exposure, – nature and degree to which a system experiences as stress or hazard
  • sensitivity – the degree which exposed assets would be impaired
  • adaptive capacity – ability of an asset t make adjustments in response to climate change; and
  • consequences – the adverse effects that occur as a result of an asset being impaired.

These must be examined in the context of geographic location, population density, societal characteristics, governance, and local, regional, state and federal political institutions.

The USC Sea Grant Program plays an instrumental role in assessing the state of climate adaptation preparedness throughout California. In the Los Angeles region, the USC Sea Grant Program coordinated a study to assess sea level rise vulnerabilities for the City of Los Angeles. Officials from the City of Los Angeles and regional stakeholders collaborated to provide invaluable input in the process of assessing the City’s vulnerability. This work provides an example of how diverse disciplines must work together to present a holistic picture for the region. The team of experts working on the “AdaptLA” project included:

  • a coastal oceanographer/physicist with expertise in coastal processes,
  • a geophysical modeler who studies hazard risk,
  • a social scientist with expertise in climate change adaptation, social vulnerability, and risk communications,
  • a coastal engineer with expertise in coastal hazards and potential adaptation methodologies, municipal officials,
  • an economist with expertise in assessing the impacts of natural disasters; and of course,
  • the USC Sea Grant climate team.

Using of a template, officials systematically assessed risks to municipal assets and identified several vulnerabilities. At-risk critical coastal infrastructure includes power plants, wastewater treatment plants, roads, and beaches. Beaches provide not only ecosystem services, but contribute millions of tourism dollars to the economy. The protection provided by wide beaches requires regular monitoring and to remain effective as barriers to rising seas. Sea level rise impacts will require an increased effort to stabilize and replenish beaches; south-facing beaches such as San Pedro’s Cabrillo Beach recently saw tremendous impact from the extended effects of offshore hurricanes.

USC Sea Grant Program also partnered with Heal the Bay in an outreach program for the vulnerable communities of Venice/Marina Del Rey and San Pedro/Wilmington/Long Beach. At an inaugural Youth Forum held on the USC campus, students learned about vulnerabilities in their own communities and participated in a survey examining hazard preparedness in their own neighborhoods. The Forum informed participants about local stewardship efforts, engaging residents and decision makers in these communities by sharing the findings from the AdaptLA report and recruiting them to participate in developing adaptation plans. Participants included policy makers, community leaders, students and their teachers.

The effects of a king tide. Photo credit: Alyssa Newton Mann

The effects of a king tide. Photo credit: Alyssa Newton Mann

Students and teachers gain an understanding of the relevance of learning about climate change through classroom activities. Through engagement programs, students put learning into action in their own communities, reaching out to help communities better prepare for flooding in their neighborhoods, and helping to survey community members to ascertain their awareness and understanding of climate change impacts. In the future, student groups will participate in the “King Tides” Initiative, using photography to record extreme high and low tides. This is designed to illustrate potential effects of sea level rise and identify places where planners and residents need to consider how to plan and protect vulnerable structures. Opportunities continue to provide ways for teachers and students to contribute to help their own communities become more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Phyllis Grifman is Associate Director and Linda Chilton is the Education Coordinator, both with the USC Sea Grant Program. Linda is a member of CSTA.

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.