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Learning Climate Change on the Go

Experts Discussed Ways to Communicate Science

UMass Lowell Image
The 2011 Carbon Smarts Conference speakers include, from left, John Anderson (New England Aquarium),  Andrew Shouse (University of Washington), Dean Grosshandler (American Educational Research Association), UMass Lowell Assoc. Prof. David Lustick, education consultant Julie Benyo and David Rabkin (Museum of Science, Boston).

By Edwin L. Aguirre

If Profs. David Lustick and Jill Hendrickson Lohmeier of the Graduate School of Education have their way, riding on the T will provide lessons about climate change.

This was one of the innovative ideas discussed at this year’s Carbon Smarts Conference, one of two events recently held on campus that tackled the issue of how to effectively communicate the science of climate change to the general public. The other event was the one-day Climate Change Teach-In.

The Carbon Smarts Conference, which took place Oct. 20 and 21, was chaired by Lustick and Lohmeier and was sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

From Posters to Billboards

“The conference brought diverse communities together to examine the potential of mobile, or ‘Out of Home Media,’ to teach climate change to commuting adults, such as riders of the T,” says Lustick.

Out of Home Media is defined as any type of communication that reaches an individual while he or she is out of the house.

“In particular, billboards, posters, mass-transit placards, radio, etc. represent a promising avenue for science learning,” says Lohmeier. “With the advent of smartphones, the opportunity to tailor the out-of-home learning experience to the needs and/or interests of individuals has never been greater.”

At the conference, experts representing marketing, communications, science education, mass transit, informal learning and atmospheric research shared their experiences and ideas with the nearly 70 people in attendance on how to improve the public’s understanding of climate change science, with special attention given to new social media and web-based interactive learning tools.
“The conference focused on developing discourse between academic and industry personnel, with a goal of laying a foundation for more creative, collaborative and effective initiatives,” says Lustick. “The meeting was a success because of the engaged audience and the incredibly interesting group of speakers.”

In his well-received keynote address, Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University shared the latest results of his research called “Six Americas.”  His study has revealed important insights into the general population’s varying levels of concern about climate change.

“His research clearly quantifies and documents the disagreement represented at one end by those who think climate change is the most pressing issue of our generation, and those at the other end who believe it is a hoax,” says Lustick. “Amid this range of concern over climate, it was interesting to note that all six Americas agreed on two things: no gas tax and a positive view of renewable resources.”

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