PSAs are short (typically one minute) pieces delivering a message to raise awareness, influence or change attitudes and behavior of a defined audience. This format is especially appropriate for a cross-disciplinary course in climate change, in which the relationship between climate change science and broader society is a recurring theme.

These projects require significant time commitments in which team members work together, which may be a barrier to implementing them in a typical one-hour class period format unless students commit to doing some of the production work during out of school time.

Students research a climate change topic of their choice and create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that communicates their understanding of the science, raises awareness about the causes and consequences of climate change and motivates people to take action in their communities, families and their own lives. Students learn first-hand about the challenges of communicating about climate change in a compelling way. The PSA project offers students opportunities to use creativity and twenty-first century technology skills while empowering them to become stewards and advocates for social change as it relates to climate change.

Public Service Announcement (PSA) Example Project

Youth Educating the Public is a Science and Media Making initiative through a NASA funded education project: Climate Change Education: Science, Solutions, and Education in an Age of Media. For middle and high school students, climate change is an issue that has always been present in their lives. During the Summer 2011 students participated in a 5 week project which outlined climate concepts that are commonly discussed but not necessarily widely understood.

Fifteen Cambridge students and three UMass Lowell interns created media to transmit and clarify what they learned about the current findings in climate change science for Cambridge residents.

View Climate Change PSA.

  • Content/Concept Goals for this Activity

    The PSA lesson assignment allows students to choose from a wide range of climate change topics and questions. Here are some examples of key questions they can address with their PSAs:

    • What is climate change?
    • What causes climate change? Are humans responsible?
    • What are the impacts (current and predicted) of climate change at global, hemispheric, regional and local levels?
    • What is the evidence for climate change?
    • How do scientists “know what they know” about climate change?
    • What actions and policies can be taken to adapt or mitigate for climate change?
    • How can we use a PSA to motivate people to change?

    Higher Order Thinking Skills for this Activity

    • PSAs rely on a number of higher-order thinking skills including:
    • Research, analysis and synthesis of complex climate science content, data, images and ideas
    • Collaboration with other students
    • Using twenty-first century communication skills
    • Using compelling story telling, metaphors and images to deliver a message

    Skills Goals for this Activity

    When creating a PSA, students learn and apply the following media skills:

    • Background internet research from vetted sources
    • Pitching a PSA proposal to peers
    • Storyboarding and script writing
    • Filming and video production
    • Researching and importing audio and video assets
    • Collaborating on pre-planning, production and film screening
    • Critiques (peer review) of others work
  • Audience

    The climate change PSA lesson is suitable for students in middle school and high school. Examples of content areas that are natural fits for a climate change PSA include:

    • Energy
    • Ecology and environmental science
    • Weather and climate
    • Earth Science
    • Media Studies
    • Societal issues
    • Economics
    • Geography

    Skills and Concepts that Students must have Mastered

    The PSA activity may be more meaningful for students if they have previously had some background in climate science and media production skills. However, creating a PSA can serve as a powerful vehicle to learn important climate science content knowledge and media skills regardless of prior experience.

    How the Activity is Situated in the Unit or Course

    The climate climate PSA project is well suited for a culminating project to a unit of study. Alternatively, a unit on climate change may be structured around creating the PSA. In this approach, the student’s ability to research, evaluate, organize and structure climate science information in order to create the PSA becomes the primary focus for assessment.

  • The climate change PSA lesson follows a sequence of activities. Some of the activities can be done for homework. Pre-teaching climate change science content will differ from class to class based on age and needs.

    In groups, students will:

    • Identify a climate change topic
    • Do the research and craft a PSA message
    • Identify visuals and sounds to use on PSA
    • Draft a storyboard and script
    • Pitch the PSA draft to the teacher and peers
    • Create a production plan and present it to the teacher
    • Film and edit the PSA
    • Show rough cut to peers for feedback (optional)
    • Present final PSA to peers for a critique

    Materials and resources

    Teaching Notes and Tips

    • Creating a climate change PSA is very student-centered which puts you in the role of facilitator.
    • Familiarize yourself with the two PowerPoints and the handouts. The CAM Powerful PSAs PowerPoint has links to five PSA videos that form the basis of class discussions in the pre-production phase. You will use the CAM Before You Tape PowerPoint to review tips on shooting techniques (ex. Rules of Thirds, lighting, sound etc.)in the beginning of the production phase.
    • Review the project’s student handouts and the rubrics with students before they begin pre-production.
    • Make sure you spend enough time understanding the equipment and software you will be working with before beginning the PSA lesson.
    • Check in with students often to ensure that the science they are presenting is scientifically accurate and rigorous enough for their age group. There are multiple times during pre-production when you can check-in with students to assess whether they are on-track in meeting their learning goals. For example, reviewing students’ storyboard and script will allow you to ask clarifying questions and uncover any science misconceptions before the PSA is done.
    • Students should critique each other’s work respectfully and with a collective goal of having all projects in the class be strong. When critiquing other students’ work, students should explicitly acknowledge excellent work by their classmates. Make sure you review ground rules for critiquing other students’ work before you begin. Your fellow art teachers would be a good resource for help with critiquing.
    • Ask students to consider how they might take their work beyond the classroom.
  • There are several points in the development and completion of the PSA project that offer opportunities for assessment. For example:

    1. The PSA Script can be assessed for clarity, creativity, scientific accuracy and planning
    2. The pitch, rough cut(optional) and final critique offer numerous opportunities to assess the following:
      • creation and use of audio and visual assets to communicate a key message
      • editing skills
      • scientific accuracy
      • oral presentation skills (as students explain what they are trying to convey, especially during the pitch and rough cut screenings).
      • quality of visual and audio aspects of the video as well as editing of the final cut
      • the efficacy of the PSA message to inform and motivate
      • effective critique skills
      • Peer review of team members to review each others’ roles and contribution to the team effort.
      • Group screenings with constructive feedback provided by a wider audience (classmates, other students, families). Group screening offer students an opportunity to refine their climate science knowledge and public speaking skills.