Interactive Education on Climate Change

The Challenge:

My subject focus is Interactive Education on Climate Change. I have a four year old daughter and next year she is going to start kindergarten and then to elementary school. Having conversations with some elementary school kids’ mothers, I realized that there are not many projects inside the classrooms in the city of Reno that are dedicated to environmental consciousness, in especially Climate Change.

At the beginning of this process, building a web community for local Nevada educators, who are interested in teaching the students facts about global climate change, seemed to be the best choice. The goal was to create a platform where climate change researchers and local Nevada educators could share insight, teaching methods and contacts relating to climate change education.

The reason that this issue was chosen is due to the importance of raising awareness about climate change in the community. Getting into areas such as elementary schools will ensure that the information stays with them in their adulthood. It is difficult make an adult care for something that they never considered before, but if a child is taught about a problem, made to think about it and even involved in the solutions, there is a large probability that this subject and knowledge will be with them for all their life.

Before I began to develop a tool that would be an effective climate change program, I researched about climate change and some interviews were conducted to understand more about the field that I was venturing into. In the course of my research I realized that linking elementary school teachers and students with the subject and also scientists would promote engagement and awareness.

By directly connecting researchers with students and creating an easy and quick platform to help teachers interested in implementing climate change curriculum in Washoe County schools, finding good resources and using these tools inside classrooms could help increase their environmental awareness. The idea is to create a new page inside an established credible website, Climate101. This website already connects teachers and researchers in a network.

The following are the steps to achieve the project’s goals:

1) Connect with teachers and discuss with them how the Climate101 site can be better geared to their needs.

 2) Connect with developers to figure out what can be done on the technical end.

 3) Test usability with educators, students and researchers.

The Process:

Prototype description – The idea was to create a new page inside the existent website Climate101. The webpage is called “Elementary School Resource,” and it includes storytelling videos for teachers to use inside classrooms in order to help students better understand the issue climate change. The webpage also has a space where the teachers can sign up for a scientist visitation through Skype during class, creating an environment where the students can have more personal contact with scientists, ask questions and exchange ideas.

I created a prototype reproducing the existent Climate101 website. *I added a simple detail on the main page, an extra section called “Elementary School Resource.” When a reader clicks on this section a new page opens, which includes an animation storytelling video in a highlight place. On the right side of the main video, 12 smaller ones are displayed and are available just by clicking on them. Just three videos are pointed out in this display, however the reader has the choice to scroll up or down to view more option. There is also a space where the reader can sign up for a virtual scientist visit.

Example – Main Page:


*I added a simple detail on the main page, an extra section called “Elementary School Resource.”


 First Prototype – Elementary School Page:

*This is a example of the main video on the page “Elementary School Resource.”

The Solution:

To achieve an easy, quick and effective site for teachers find tools for lessons on climate change, and promote engagement; it is necessary to fill the following goals in the project:

1) Create a space for resource lessons at the bottom of each video that is displayed.

2) Create a space for teachers and students feedback about the resources available on the page.

3) Create a space for a *virtual magazine where each student can write their personal story about climate change. It will need to be edited by teachers who would correct mistakes and credit the students’ school, grade and teacher. There is also a necessity for this subject to leave the school and become part of the family life. As such, I propose the instructors teach one subject each month about climate change. Then at the end of the school year, the students can write personal stories about what they leaned and how the subject could affect their lives.

4) Create a Climate Change Day space in order to promote the students’ stories. This space can explain the project to uninformed readers. The students could bring umbrellas to the school and open them at the same time while distributing flyers to the community around the school about what climate change is and how it could affect their future. The flyers would address where the community could find the virtual magazine with children’s personal stories.

5) Create a space for “Climate Change Day News” where the readers can verify how this project worked in other schools.

*This is an example of a virtual magazine written by elementary school students in Brazil about environmental issues.

The Lessons:

This project starts with the idea of creating a web community, for educators interested in teaching Climate Change inside classrooms. The objective was to create a platform where climate change researchers and local Nevada educators could share insight, teaching methods and contacts relating to climate change education.

During the process I learned that teachers interested on climate change want three basic things: easy, quick and effective platform. They do not want to have to expend time trying to figure out where the resources are; they also do not like the idea of needing to figure out how a complex webpage works for this single issue. In addition, educators believe that a visual story teaches better than any articles or verbal explanation. Engagement is another key way to make the kids excited with the issue. Finally, I learned that teachers and families want a community project due to a desire to extend climate change issue outside the classrooms.

Therefore, the best way to solve the topics cited above is to create an easy and quick navigation webpage in an already credible website, such as Climate101. On the new webpage there can be found: a storytelling video, resource lessons, a link to sign up to Skype with a scientist, a personal feedback box, a virtual magazine written by the students and promotions for the Climate Change Day event. (At the event, the students will be able to spread their articles from the virtual magazine.)

Each step of this process was essential to the Interactive Education on Climate Change project. Identifying and writing down the problem was vital to start this process and select the best ways to achieve the goal. The interviews brought to this entire project an overview and better understanding of the world that I was just starting to explore. The brainstorm summary helped me to take time to sit down and try to figure out the best ways to conduct and create a solution to better serve the target audience. The prototype and the usability testing were the keys in this entire process. The prototype brought to the audience a more realistic and palpable idea about what I was trying to implement. The usability testing gave me extraordinary feedback: what works well, what does not work, what I should add, what I should take out, and wonderful insights from the people that I wanted to reach, which is an excellent contribution for success at the end of this project.

How is the project related to journalism?

Skills in journalism are no longer just about having good information in hand or the ability to write good text and publish it. Currently, an additional significant skill in journalism is to promote individuals’ engagement with public information for the welfare of the community. In the current journalism network, the characteristics that really matter to be preserved is not any particular medium but the traditional public service functions of journalism: digging up the facts, disseminating the news, holding people accountable, and promoting public service for the wellbeing of a society. The Interactive Education on Climate Change project meets these requirements.

The Team:

My name is Fanny Pinheiro and I am from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am 32 years old. My first language is Portuguese. I studied Spanish for three years at Casa de España. I also have some communications skills in Italian and French.

I went to High School at Veiga de Almeida, in Rio de Janeiro. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University Estácio de Sá, in Brazil.

Now I am a graduate student of Journalism at the University of Nevada, in the United States. This page is a summary of an experimental project about “Interactive Education on Climate Change,” in order to complete the final semester for my Masters degree in Interactive Journalism.

*The interviews are credited to Robert Mills and Monica Thompson (who I worked together about 50% of this project), especially the interview with the Web Developer for, Mark Garro. He was fundamental in discovering that the idea of implementing an extra webpage inside the Climate101 was viable and welcome.

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