NASA funds climate change courses for teachers

Climate change - one of the greatest challenges facing humanity and a major concern to young people - is the focus of upcoming online professional development courses and teaching resources from PBS TeacherLine® and The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). PBS TeacherLine, provider of online professional development services for preK-12 educators, has been awarded funding from the NASA Global Climate Change Education grant, totaling nearly $600,000, to help educators engage students in critical lessons on climate change, while teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.

Since NASA scientist James Hansen's landmark Congressional testimony on global warming 20 years ago, intensive study of climate change has led the international scientific community to describe the warming of Earth's climate system as "unequivocal," citing increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and widespread melting of snow and ice. Public awareness and concern about climate change also has grown, driving green technology initiatives in businesses and schools across the United States. Studies indicate that young people are especially worried. A 2007 survey of middle school students in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia suggests that climate change is more frightening to them than car crashes, cancer, terrorism, and war, with many students reporting that they often lose sleep over it.

The grant funding for Teaching Climate Change: K-12 Online Professional Developmentfrom PBS and NASA focuses primarily on the development of two new online teacher professional development courses targeting climate change and aligned with content-area standards for middle and high school teachers. Both courses will strengthen teachers' knowledge of the science of climate change, enable teachers to use STEM instructional techniques to investigate climate change with their students, and facilitate the integration of data, models and other resources from NASA into classroom instruction.

Through current missions such as Terra, Aura and SORCE, NASA is generating valuable data for the study of climate change, including measurements of atmospheric temperatures, sea ice thickness and extent, solar radiation, sea surface height, and aerosol concentrations. Additionally, NASA offers a number of relevant classroom resources and data collections like Visible Earth, My NASA Data and S'COOL.

The grant will also fund the creation of a series of 10 online self-paced learning modules containing resources from PBS and NASA. These modules will be offered free of charge through the PBS Teachers Web site.

The online professional development courses and resources will be available by the summer of 2012.

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