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Global Change Education in Alaska

by Elena Sparrow, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Animal & Soil Sciences

A U.S. Global Change Education Conference was held in August 1994 in Washington D.C. It was an unprecedented event where scientists and educators from across the U.S. came together to share expertise. The purpose was to launch a national global change curricula. Kindergarten through junior college and the general public were identified as highest priority audiences for education and outreach efforts. An Alaska team attended the conference

The volunteer Alaska team consists of: Terri Campbell (Juneau) - Minerals and Energy Education Coordinator, Alaska Department of Education; Sandi Pahlke (Juneau) - middle school educator specializing in life science and global change; Steve Hackett (Kenai) - president of the Alaska Natural Resources and Outdoor Education Association and math/science teacher in rural Alaska; Janet Blalock (Anchorage) - library/media specialist; Elena Sparrow (Fairbanks) - adjunct associate professor of environmental microbiology and science education, University of Alaska Fairbanks; and Jennifer Coggins (Kodiak) - elementary teacher.

The Alaska team obtained a $10,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to plan global change education. With this grant, a planning team was organized from agencies, organizations, industries, educators and Native groups to provide the resources and expertise for a successful, cooperative program. Their role is to interest people in learning about global change issues; promote systemic change; provide material, training and financial resources; and help the executive committee. The executive committee's role is to plan and promote global change education, assist with building the planning team, provide awareness through presentations and newsletters, assist with research, and serve as an executive board for the planning team. There are 49 committed and enthusiastic members of the planning team and 9 on the executive committee.

The vision for global change education in Alaska is: 1) for all Alaskans to be literate in global change issues, make well informed decisions and take responsible action; and 2) for all formal and informal educators to be able to teach a global change curriculum in Alaska's schools and communities. A key element is the realization that changes through out the world also impact the arctic and subarctic regions, and that local and regional actions have global impacts.

Alaskan educators indicate their need for materials and training in order to place global change education in their existing curriculum. Over 330 publications were located by the Alaska team relating to global change education; 116 were reviewed and chosen as a base collection of usable resources for Alaskan teachers. Other objectives are to: provide increased awareness of global change issues to teachers and communities; determine the best technological tools for Alaskans especially in rural areas to access research on global change and communicate with scientists and others; design the most efficient and effective way to provide statewide training, including rural areas; and to explore additional funding for global change education in Alaska. The Alaska team is applying for several grants; one will be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency through the UAF Center for Global Change.

Global change education in Alaska is still in its infancy. The Alaska Department of Education does not have an environmental education coordinator or the resources to implement a program. Global Change education is not in any of the formal curricula in the State. To bring about and sustain global change education in Alaska, there is a real need for a home institution and paid personnel, to act as a clearinghouse for educational materials; coordinate resources and efforts (now provided by volunteers with other full-time jobs); and develop strategies for systemic implementation of global change education.

If you have any ideas or resources to share or contribute towards global change education in Alaska, please contact Elena Sparrow: 309 O'Neill Building, University of Alaska Fairbanks, POB 757200, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7200; e-mail: ffebs@aurora.alaska.edu; phone: 907-474-7699.

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