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$449,278 Grant to Help Wild Center Build Climate Literacy in New York

$449,278 Grant to Help Wild Center Build Climate Literacy in New York
Science center and partners receive three-year NOAA award to work with youth in North Country and Finger Lakes

For Immediate Release: October 5, 2020

Tupper Lake, N.Y. - A $449,278 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Literacy Program will support The Wild Center as it helps empower young people to respond to climate change in their communities. The three-year project builds upon a collaboration of The Wild Center, the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) as they support the development of leadership skills for rural youth by creating programming that demonstrates best practices for students and teachers to engage and partner with local municipalities on climate resilience planning. The project, called Empowering Rural Youth for Community Climate Resilience in New York State, will also increase awareness of the New York State Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program.

"It's critical for students to learn about climate change-but studies are clear that education alone isn't enough to lead to action," said Stephanie Ratcliffe, executive director of The Wild Center. "We also need to empower students to help their communities prepare for the changes that are likely to affect them."

The grant was one of eight awarded this year from NOAA's Environmental Literacy Program, which supports education programs that use NOAA science to improve ecosystem stewardship and increase resilience to environmental hazards. The project will serve 700-800 rural high school students , 60-80 high school teachers, and 60 youth leaders in New York State. The project is also designed to reach a much wider audience, including 30 rural decision-makers and community members, as well as 50- 60 educators. Project documentation includes a Guide to the NY State Climate Smart Community Program for Students and Educators, and a Youth and Local Government for Climate Resilience Workshop Module, which will benefit other Youth Climate Summits and be disseminated through the online toolkit and through the national network of youth climate summits. Additionally, the project will support a community of practice for informal and formal educators across NY State who are working on new and existing Youth Climate Summits to provide the opportunity to align with the CSC program, collaborate on best practices, and co-create strategies for engagement.

While all of New York State will face urgent climate change-related challenges, every community's response to the issue will differ. In more rural places, such as the Adirondacks, decreased snowfall might impact winter tourism. In the Finger Lakes region, increased flooding from intense storm events is already having an impact on lake water quality.

"Students recognize climate change as a critical issue and want to be part of the solution," states Nadia Harvieux, Education Program Manager at the Finger Lakes Institute. "This project is an exciting opportunity for youth to take action and help create a climate resilient future for their communities, in the Finger Lakes region, Adirondacks and beyond."

The following activities will be supported over the 3-year course of the project: Opportunities for youth to effectively partner with decision-makers in their home communities to work on climate action, engagement and resilience. Youth Climate Summits and intensive Youth Climate Leadership Retreats will increase climate literacy, education and action among high school students. Programming will increase educator comprehension and confidence to prioritize climate change education instruction and student mentoring.

Creation of the New York State Youth Climate Summit Network that will share best practices and actions that align with New York State climate change resilience planning.

"Addressing the challenge of climate change is among Governor Cuomo's highest environmental priorities," said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our strategy for fighting climate change and implementing the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is dependent on a well-informed, involved public. The Youth Climate Summits demonstrate the passion of New York's young climate leaders and this well-deserved award will bolster the State's ongoing efforts in participants' schools and communities and further inspire young people to become the engaged, knowledgeable, and hopeful adults New York needs now to meet tomorrow's climate challenges."

The NYS DEC's Office of Climate Change will join the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Energy & the Environment, Inc. and NOAA's Climate Program Office to contribute scientific information, resources and tools to the project, helping ensure that it conveys the latest knowledge and reflects statewide goals while serving as a model for other states.

"We are thrilled to be supporting The Wild Center's project. They are a recognized leader in engaging and empowering youth to have a voice in addressing climate impacts now and in the future," said Louisa Koch, NOAA Director of Education. Since 2008, The Wild Center has worked with thousands of high school and college students as well as educators across the region, building climate action plans students can implement in their own schools and communities. The work has garnered national and international notice. To date, the Center has worked with over 40 communities around the world to host over 85 summits in person and now, virtually.

"The best part about this work has been watching young leaders get excited about realizing they can do something about this crisis we're all facing," Ratcliffe said. "And it's exciting to know we'll be working with even more students going forward. They have the optimism, they have the will, they have new and fresh solutions, and they have hope."