CLN > Climate Change Education Projects > Cooling the Liberal Arts Curriculum, A Campaign for Climate Change Education at 4- and 2-year Liberal Arts Colleges

Cooling the Liberal Arts Curriculum

A Campaign for Climate Change Education at 4- and 2-year Liberal Arts Colleges

Principal Investigator: Neil Leary, Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, Dickinson College
Co-Investigators: James Ciarrocca, Kjell Enge, Mike Johnson, Jeff Niemitz, and Ashton Nichols, Dickinson College; Kelly Mathews and Julia Knight, Harrisburg Area Community College; Diane McDaniel, Montgomery College; Robert Kuhlman, Montgomery County Community College; and Doug Heath and Christine Pense, Northampton Community College.
Collaborators: Mark Chandler and Linda Sohl, Center for Climate System Research (CCSR), Columbia University; and Alex de Sherbinin, Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), Columbia University.
Project Website:
Funding Agency:National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Education Grant 09-GCCE-0139

Project Description

Purpose and Approach: Dickinson College, in partnership with Harrisburg Area Community College, Northampton Community College, Montgomery County Community College, and Montgomery College, are implementing a comprehensive, multifaceted campaign to build teacher competency for interdisciplinary teaching about climate change, enhance capacity for using models and Earth observations in teaching and research, develop and implement a core curriculum of climate change-focused courses that promotes systems thinking, and integrate climate change more widely throughout their liberal arts programs. The campaign will encompass and integrate Earth system science and human dimensions of climate change. Elements of the planned campaign include a faculty study group for collaborative professional and curriculum development, training workshops on Earth system models and observational data, resources to build capacity for use of remote sensing data, and support for individual projects for professional development, curriculum development, and student-faculty research. The Center for Climate System Research and the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center, both at Columbia University, are assisting with training activities.

Outcomes and Metrics for Success: Anticipated outcomes are increased competency of science, social science, and humanities faculties for interdisciplinary teaching about climate change from a systems perspective using effective pedagogies and NASA science, data, and models; increased Climate Literacy of students completing 2- and 4-year degrees in the liberal arts that prepares them for climate change related employment, continued study toward a higher degree, and/or informed participation in public decision making for managing climate risks; increased numbers of students who go on from a 2-year degree to a 4-year degree in fields related to climate change; and strengthened collaboration between Dickinson College and partner community colleges. Attainment of these outcomes will be evaluated based on faculty self-assessments, measures of student performance, student focus groups, and longitudinal data on students' future education and employment.

Opportunities for Faculty Development

Dickinson College invites applications to participate in three programs for interdisciplinary teaching about climate change. The programs, briefly described below, are open to faculty members from any college or university. Further details and application forms can be downloaded from the project website.

The application deadline is April 23, 2010.

Changing Planet Faculty Study Group: a learning community to support interdisciplinary teaching about Earth science and human dimensions of climate change. Members of the study group will participate in a four-day workshop to that will take place July 19-22, 2010 on the Dickinson College campus in Carlisle, PA and other activities over the 2010-2011 academic year. The program is appropriate for arts and humanities, social science and natural science faculty members.

Climate Modeling and Data Applications Workshop: A workshop is being offered August 9-12, 2010 at Dickinson College to provide training in the use of the Educational Global Climate model (EdGCM), and a data visualization tool, Terraviva!SEDAC, for undergraduate teaching. EdGCM (more info) is a software package that was developed at Columbia University and NASA/GISS to integrate a computer climate model with a user interface that simplifies setting up, running, and analyzing climate model experiments (). The climate model is a real research tool that is used by NASA scientists – but has been used successfully by undergraduate teachers and students. Terraviva!SEDAC is a tool for analysis, integration, and visualization of social, economic, and environmental data (). No mathematical modeling, computer modeling, or GIS skills are needed, just comfort working with spreadsheets.

COP15, an Innovative Learning Experience

Dickinson College is in the final semester of a two-semester course, From Kyoto to Copenhagen, in which students are investigating national and stakeholder positions in the international climate change negotiations, with a focus on varying interpretations of the pinciple of 'common but differentiated responsibilities' under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Students in the course attended the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Copenhagen, where they conducted and videotaped interviews with conference delegates. You can read about their work and experiences on the More information about the course can be found at student blog.

Contact Information:
Neil Leary, Director of the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, Dickinson College (email)