Update: The survey described below reflects the input from a group of self-selected educators, not a randomized sample. A more robust national survey to determine whether, where, and how climate and global change topics are being taught is much needed, but until such a survey is deployed, the "user needs" survey described below provides a snapshot of the interests and practices of many science educators today in the United States.
Teaching climate change is considered a major priority for science educators, especially in higher education, where 97% indicated in a recent survey that teaching climate change was "important" or "very important". The survey also found that 90% of the educators responding to the web-based survey have received professional development around climate change or atmospheric science, but have had less support around related topics, such as ocean acidification.
Last week in Denver at the annual Geological Society of America conference, I had the privilege of presenting some of the findings from the survey we conducted with over 1,300 science educators. The aim was to learn whether, where, and how they teach about climate and other global change-related topics, such as biodiversity loss and freshwater pollution.
The survey, a collaboration between NCSE, BSCS, and the University of California Museum of Paleontology, asked fifty questions of educators from middle school all the way up to four-year colleges (and informal educators too!) from across the country. The data is helping us in developing a new website that will be released in 2015 called Understanding Global Change, complementing the popular Understanding Evolution and Understanding Science websites.
Here are a few of the highlights that stand out from our initial slice of the data: