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UT to build online climate change classes for middle and high school students

The University of Toledo beat out dozens of universities to receive the Global Climate Change Education Award from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). The award totals $377,251 and is part of NASA’s nationwide program to educate students and teachers about climate change.

UT is one of 17 universities across the country to take part in this program to inspire the next generation of researchers and explorers. The grants are offered to support NASA’s goal of engaging students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“I’m excited about getting the grant. It shows that we are right on track research wise,” said Dr. Kevin Czajkowski, professor in the UT Department of Geography and Planning.

The University will use the grant money to build five learning modules for middle school and high school students. Each module will focus on an aspect of climate change and help students dispel any misconceptions regarding the subject through NASA science and facts, Czajkowski said.

The pilot program will be available to students in the Catholic Diocese of Toledo schools.

“We have an issue of science illiteracy in this country. We want to recharge students’ interest in science,” said Dr. Patrick L. Lawrence, associate professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Planning. “Kids already know about climate change, so this is an innovative way to recharge interest.”

The climate change curriculum being developed through this NASA grant is designed to offer teachers options, Lawrence said.

“The modules are designed to be flexible so that teachers can implement one or all parts into their lesson plans,” he said. “Rather than design a new curriculum, the teacher can decide what lessons best fit and utilize them in the classroom.”

The project will take three years to implement. The first stage is design, followed by a pilot program in Toledo Catholic Schools, and then the education program will open up to all schools. The Catholic schools were chosen to start the program because they have schools in rural areas whose teachers would benefit from the flexibility, Czajkowski said.

“The modules are a professional development tool for teachers who can’t drive two hours to take a class here at The University of Toledo,” he said.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about climate change,” Lawrence said. “People don’t understand the science, and we want to get the information out and step away from politics and look at it through science.”

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