Water Education Foundation Honored Nationally for Program that Trains Teachers in Climate Change Science
The Foundation’s teacher training program was recognized for its innovative partnership with the California Department of Water Resources
The Water Education Foundation has won a national award for its innovative partnership with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to train schoolteachers across the state on climate science and how they can bring hands-on activities into their classrooms connected to local examples of climate change impacts.
The award was presented today by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and The Climate Registry during their virtual Climate Leadership Series and Awards Showcase, Oct. 13-15. The Climate Leadership Awards is a national program that recognizes exemplary corporate, organizational and individual leadership in response to climate change. In all, 24 organizations nationwide were honored this year.
The Water Education Foundation and DWR were awarded with the Innovative Partnership Certificate, which recognizes organizations working collaboratively on leading-edge climate initiatives.
“The Foundation is honored to receive national recognition for its work, and especially on such a crucial topic as climate change,” said Mike Chrisman, the Foundation’s board president. Chrisman served as secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency when the state passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.
Hear award winners across the United States, including the Water Education Foundation’s Jenn Bowles, talk about the key to partnerships in a short video.
The Foundation’s California Project WET (Water Education Today) program has been training K-12 teachers about water resources since 1996. But the program had not tailored teacher workshops specifically on climate change science until its partnership with DWR began in 2014. DWR provided critical funding and access to the department’s own climate researchers so that teachers in grades 3-12 could hear directly from experts on climate change impacts. Part of California Project WET’s role was to make that expertise relevant to teachers and their students through Project WET activities.
“Our partnership with DWR allows us to give educators the tools they need to include climate change in their curriculum and to inspire science literacy in the next generation in the hope that they can try to make a difference for this world,” said Jenn Bowles, the Foundation’s executive director.
Raising Awareness on Climate Change
The Water Education Foundation, a nonprofit that started in 1977 to raise awareness of the most precious natural resource in California and the West, began writing about climate change impacts on water resources back in the 1990s through its Western Water news and other publications. The Foundation also made climate change a key topic of discussion at its many events, including the annual Headwaters Tour that travels into the Sierra Nevada. It wasn’t until the partnership with DWR that the Foundation was able to focus its climate change efforts on the teachers who educate our next generation, Bowles said.
“We are lucky to have the most energetic and enthusiastic Project WET coordinator in the nation, Brian Brown, who collaborated with the DWR team to plan and execute these workshops that inspired California’s educators,” Bowles said.
Since the partnership began in 2014, more than 500 educators have attended the Project WET “Understanding Climate Change in California” workshops with approximately 189,000 students benefitting from the classes.
The innovative partnership served as an inspiration for similar initiatives across the country. Although in-person workshops ceased during the COVID-19 pandemic, DWR and the Foundation continued hosting virtual workshops with participants joining from as far away as Canada, Turkey and Argentina.
The ongoing workshops allow educators to not only better understand climate science but connect them to local examples of climate change impacts such as extreme heat, wildfires and the associated smoke, drought, flooding and even the decline of stone fruit crops in San Joaquin Valley.
Beyond the climate change workshops, California Project WET each year trains on average about 1,000 teachers on water conservation, watershed management, the science of water, water quality and groundwater, among other topics. Those teachers in turn reach at least 100,000 K-12 students annually.
California Project WET depends on grant funding to exist so the partnership with DWR was essential to provide climate science training to teachers. California Project WET also receives funding from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation for its other workshops and programming.
About the Water Education Foundation: Taking a steady pulse of the water world, the Foundation offers educational materials, tours of key watersheds, water news, water leadership training and conferences that bring together diverse voices. By providing tools and platforms for engagement with wide audiences, our team aims to help build sound and collective solutions to water issues. For more information, visit www.watereducation.org or www.watereduction.org/project-wet