Delaware Sea Grant welcomes teachers to UD’s Lewes Campus for the 2019 Climate Academy


Teachers from Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland gathered at the University of Delaware’s Lewes campus to learn about climate, environmental change and Meaningful Watershed Education Experiences (MWEEs) at the 2019 Climate Academy, held from Monday, June 24 through Wednesday, June 26.

The professional learning opportunity was hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Delaware Sea Grant College Program and the Chesapeake and Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserves.

In previous years, the academy was held as part of the National Science Foundation’s Maryland and Delaware Climate Change Education Assessment and Research (MADE CLEAR) project, but after the NSF funding ended, NOAA and Delaware Sea Grant decided to continue the academy as the previous academies were successful and received positive feedback from the participants. In addition, climate change is an important topic that many teachers do not have a background in.

David Christopher, Delaware Sea Grant’s Education Specialist, explained that the goal of the workshop is to “provide participants with climate change content, help them become familiar with curriculum connections to climate change, and have them develop a plan for teaching about climate in their classroom.”

Before arriving for the three-day in-person workshop, participants had four to five weeks of online training classes to give them a background on climate science and climate change.

At the in-person trainings, they continued that education but also learned how to conduct investigations with their students, collect data, and work with their students to come up with solutions based upon a MWEE, which is designed to have students identify an issue, investigate it, develop an action project and then engage in that project.

On the second day of the academy, participants planned and conducted an environmental investigation on their own, then presented their findings to the rest of the academy.

“We provided them with equipment and the groups themselves decided what they wanted to investigate and what data they wanted to collect so they were out in the field a lot of the second day,” said Christopher.

Participants got to tour the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s Robotic Discovery Laboratories and the UD wind turbine and also heard from experts in the field, ranging from Delaware Sea Grant to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

William Meredith, from DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Mosquito Control Section, spoke about the biological impact climate change has on mosquitoes and ticks in Delaware and noted how rising temperatures lead to longer breeding seasons for the insects, which ultimately leads to larger mosquito and tick populations.

As a result of Meredith’s presentation, one of the participants came up with a children’s story about how the warmer weather led to the spread of mosquitoes that could be shared with her kindergarten class.

Robert Ferrell, a high school teacher at St. George’s Technical High School in Delaware, said that the three-day workshop was a great opportunity to hear about the latest discoveries from the field.

“I love that this workshop is offered because it really puts those of us that are in the classroom in direct contact with experts in the field,” said Ferrell. “The stuff we learned about mosquitoes was great because they’re gross, they’re impactful, they’re things that the students can relate to directly.”

Lori Davis, who teaches kindergarten at Newark Charter School, said that she wanted to take the workshop to learn more about climate change and then use the MWEE format to develop a lesson she can use with her students.

Davis said it is important to get the younger students interested in the environment because it sets the tone for a lifetime of learning. She noted that she implemented a MWEE looking at how much trash is generated daily during lunch in her classroom.

The students used the data they collected and came up with solutions and ways they could reduce the total trash such as taking food waste to the composter daily, using fabric bags versus plastic bags for snacks, and no longer using straws or pre-packaged utensils during lunch.

“They shared these solutions with their families and made changes that decreased the total trash that was collected each day,” said Davis. “It was exciting to see them so motivated and taking ownership by brainstorming the changes and holding each other accountable, to sustain the changes.”

Now that the in-person portion of the academy has wrapped up, Christopher said the participants will process what they learned during the workshop and develop an implementation plan on “how they are going to use the content learned and engage students in climate investigations in their school or center. In August, the group will reconvene to share their implementation plans and get feedback from the other participants.”