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Cool Science Takes Students’ Temps on Climate Change

Creative Economy Grant Funds Climate Change Education

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The Cool Science initiative includes a poster contest on climate change for students in kindergarten through college. The winning submissions will be featured on bus advertisements.

By Jill Gambon

Assoc. Prof. David Lustick wants to take kids’ temperature on climate change. He hopes a new project featuring students’ artwork in public transit advertisements will help him do just that.

Lustick, who teaches mathematics and science education in the Graduate School of Education, is leading an initiative called “Cool Science” to get students in kindergarten through college thinking about climate change. Funded by a $32,000 grant from UMass President Robert Caret’s Creative Economy Initiatives Fund, the project will incorporate a poster contest in which the winning submissions will be used in advertisements on Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA) buses.

“We want to engage the public in the science of climate change and assess what kids know about it,” says Lustick. He also wants to learn how the ad campaign affects public awareness of the topic.

Working with Lustick on the project are Asst. Prof. Jill Lohmeier of the Graduate School of Education and Prof. Robert Chen of UMass Boston’s Environmental, Earth and Ocean Sciences Department.

Through Nov. 15, the Cool Science project is accepting student posters that address different aspects of climate change. The students’ submissions must try to answer one of the following questions: What is the evidence of climate change locally? How will climate change impact your world? What can we do now that will help in the future?

Using such criteria as clarity of message, scientific accuracy and creativity and aesthetic appeal, judges will select six winners whose designs will be featured in the public transit ads for a month each, starting next year. The LRTA and Anastas Advertising Associates are donating $13,000 for the project.
“We hope to get great involvement from the local schools,” Lustick says. “The advertising spaces on buses are extremely effective in selling goods and services. We want to use them to foster an increase of science understanding.”

Poster contest winners will also collect cash prizes for themselves and their schools.

The project will include research to measure what people know about climate change and whether they learned from the students’ posters.

Lustick hopes to use the initiative as the foundation for something even bigger. He’d like to scale the project to the statewide public transit system and is planning to apply for National Science Foundation funding to make that happen.

For details about the project and guidelines and tips for entering the poster contest, go to the Cool Science website