Five New Earth to Sky Teams Bring Climate Communication Courses to their Regions

Five New Earth to Sky Teams Bring Climate Communication Courses to their Regions

Earth to Sky (ETS) is an exciting, growing partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Park Service (NPS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that works to enable and encourage informal educators and science communicators to access and use relevant science, data, and educational products in their work. The project began in 2004, with the mission to actively foster collaborative work between scientists, interpreters, communicators, and informal educators from NASA, NPS, and other place-based organizations in order to enrich the experience of millions of visitors to parks, refuges, and other protected areas. One major component to ETS is its collaborative approach to interagency professional development, which involves bringing scientists and educators together in collegial learning environments through training events that emphasize the development of plans for use as course content in the participants’ work environment. Since 2008, the ETS professional development effort has focused on climate change science and communication.

During the most recent ETS professional development training course in October, 2022, five new teams of Earth to Sky regional leaders representing Hawaiʻi, the Niobrara River Watershed, Greater Boston, New Mexico, and the Southern Appalachian Highlands attended a week-long training at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. These five new regional teams bring the total number of Earth to Sky regions to nine. This Earth to Sky Academy provided the teams with the tools they will need to train, support, and grow communities of climate change communicators in their home regions. Members of this year’s Academy cohort of leaders worked with agencies including NPS, USFWS, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as state parks, city governments, and other organizations. To help these regional leaders learn the Earth to Sky professional development methodology, the Academy incorporated several signature elements of Earth to Sky courses, including mentorship from dedicated coaches, an authentic task that participants will implement following the course, and independent time to work on their plans. Earth to Sky leadership provided tested tools to help them in the development of their courses, such as planning timelines and agenda templates, as well as a wide variety of NASA and NPS resources. The Academy included presentations on climate science and communication techniques by NASA scientists, outreach staff, NASA and United States Geological Survey (USGS) engineers, NPS partners, and the Academy coaches. The regional leaders mingled with Earth scientists and toured spacecraft being built in NASA Goddard’s facilities. They concluded the week by sharing their initial plans for supporting their own regions and receiving constructive feedback from their peers.

Using the expertise within their teams and the interagency connections they forged at the Academy, the new teams will return to their regions to continue developing their plans to offer multi-day Earth to Sky climate communication courses for their audiences, including interpreters (e.g. park rangers), informal educators, and teachers – people who will, in turn, reach thousands of learners annually with the climate change programs, products, and communication skills that they develop and hone at the course. These five new ETS regional leaders will also provide their communities with ongoing support focused on sharing the stories of climate change impacts and the solutions that matter most in their regions. One Academy participant, Kathleen Hart, noted, “The week rekindled an excitement for environmental work that I needed—and reminded me of the childlike feeling of ‘awe’ as I spent time with people I admired and learned new things.”

The Earth to Sky project is supported by NASA’s Earth Science Division and is an infrastructure element of NASA’s Science Activation Portfolio.

 Surrounded by collaborators, a woman examines printouts that show satellite images of the Chesapeake Bay area and hangs them in order on a clothesline.

Participants engaged in an interpretation example program featuring Landsat data and a connection to place. Credit: Earth to Sky.