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The Ocean's Role in Weather and Climate

Climate Resourcess

NOAA’s National Ocean Service is the administrative lead for the Planet Stewards program. Program leadership team members come from across NOAA, including the NOAA Climate Office, National Weather Service, National Marine Sanctuaries, National Estuarine Research Reserves, Coral Reef Conservation Program, National Marine Fisheries Service, and National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service.

For more information on becoming a NOAA Climate Steward, contact NOS's Education Coordinator.

montage of coastal city, kids with plants, starfish

As NOAA Planet Stewards, Educators Take Small Steps to Reduce a Large 'Carbon Footprint'

Did someone ever really say that one person can’t make a difference?

Consider the efforts of 61 talented educators involved in NOAA’s Planet Stewards Program, which aims to increase teachers’ and students’ understanding of essential climate concepts and give them ready access to reliable scientific information. Then, armed with that knowledge, NOAA Planet Stewards initiate environmentally friendly action plans to reduce the “carbon footprint” in their own communities.

children planting garden

The students of NOAA Planet Stewards participate in a variety of activities, ranging from planting and maintaining a garden in Maryland (shown here), to growing native sea grasses in rural Louisiana, to water quality testing in Hawaii.

Opportunity and Community

teachers at workshop

While most of their gatherings are virtual, NOAA Planet Stewards occasionally meet face-to-face for workshops and symposia.

NOAA Planet Stewards is part of the NOAA education community’s comprehensive portfolio of activities to strengthen ocean, climate, and atmospheric science education. The program, now in its second year, already boasts a broad reach, with participants from 26 states (including land-locked ones like Colorado and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia. NOAA Planet Stewards include professional teachers of students ranging from elementary through college age, and informal educators who share their expertise with the public in nature and science centers, aquaria, and zoos.

NOAA gives the educators access to a wide array of professional development opportunities. Participants interact directly with NOAA scientists and education specialists, and receive instruction in the use of data resources, digital tools, and other innovative technologies. The educators benefit from an active online learning community that offers collaborative space, web seminars, conference symposia, workshops, and virtual conferences.

In Sept. 2011, for example, NOS Education, in cooperation with the NOAA Climate Program Office and Raytheon Professional Services, hosted a virtual conference on climate change science and education in Second Life, where participants represent themselves as an avatar. For three evenings, educators from across the country worked together in an immersive interactive environment.

Presentations and discussions included online visualization tools, the impacts of climate change on human health, how to develop community stewardship projects, and how to address climate misconceptions in the classroom. Conference participants also toured places in Second Life’s Scilands, including NOAA’s Virtual Island on YouTube, where they watched the effects of climate change on a virtual glacier.

NOAA Planet Stewards also receive modest financial assistance and expert evaluation as they design and launch action plans for their communities. Diverse action plans include workshops for Native American educators in northern Arizona, a garden maintained by second-graders in Maryland, and an elementary curriculum in Hawaii. Climate Steward Sylvia Quinton used the knowledge and motivation she gained from the program to successfully apply for, and receive, a $2 million National Science Foundation grant for her project in Suitland, Maryland.

A Climate Steward in Action: The C.O.W. Institute

students measuring sea level rise effects in Md.

Students measure elevation change in a Maryland wetland to learn about coastal inundation due to sea level rise.

Maryland attorney Sylvia Quinton, executive director of the Suitland Family and Life Development Corporation, created the “Climate, Ocean and Weather (C.O.W.) Institute” as her NOAA Climate Steward action plan.

As a result, students and teachers in Prince Georges County, Maryland, will have “something to ‘moo’ about” when the C.O.W. Institute launches on Oct. 4 with a formal induction ceremony at the Drew Freeman Middle School in Suitland. NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco will be the guest speaker. Congressional Representative Donna Edwards and Senator Barbara Mikulski (both D-MD) are expected to attend.

C.O.W. will support three new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs at the school. The SMILE Club (Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience), The Entrepreneurship Club, and The Climate Science Academy will provide fun and engaging learning experiences, not only for students but also for their parents, teachers, and the community. The goals are to engage the entire community in learning more about climate science, and to help prepare a future workforce for NOAA, which is a major employer in the area.

A Climate Steward's Perspective

Jacob Tanenbaum, a teacher in New York, recently emailed Dr. Lubchenco to share his perspective on the significance of NOAA’s Planet Stewards Program. He wrote, “A recent Planet Stewards presentation included data suggesting that the number of Americans who ‘believe’ in climate change is actually decreasing, though the science gets clearer with each passing year.

“The only way to combat this disturbing trend is through education. The fact that NOAA has created cohorts of teachers who are trained in the science, by the scientists themselves, is a credit to the agency and its mission.”