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11/6/12 - Climate-change education plan enters second phase

Open dialogue fosters critical thinking, so conversation partners must be allowed to voice their opinions, no matter how divisive the topic may be.

That's exactly what Mississippi State University leaders envisioned when, in 2010, they formed the Climate Literacy Partnership of the Southeast to talk about climate change and form a climate-change education plan for the region.

The climate-focused network represents the diverse opinions, values and belief systems across the region, according to Karen McNeal, CLiPSE principal investigator and associate professor of geosciences at MSU.

CLiPSE's mission is not to tell people what to think. Instead, the project's goal is to create a network of stakeholders across the Southeast and offer them a collection of information to promote understanding of climate, climate change, its implications and possible alternate outcomes, while also giving them the tools to continue open conversations about climate change.

With the first phase of the project complete, CLiPSE researchers are excited about the accomplishments they've achieved and the next steps the program will take to enhance climate-change education throughout the Southeast U.S., McNeal explained.

During the first phase, CLiPSE researchers increased program partners by 65 percent, she said. The program refined its target audience to include students and their teachers, agriculture stakeholders, religious organizations, leisure organizers and culturally diverse groups.

Representatives from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas signed on.

Next, CLiPSE researchers used the information they gathered from the network at regional workshops and webinars to develop the strategic plan, which integrates climate change education objectives developed by the stakeholders.

"It's not just one stakeholder or another, but everybody came together to develop the strategic plan, which means it's more functional for multiple stakeholders," McNeal said. "When we talk about being competitive for educational dollars and other federal dollars compared to other regions in the U.S., we need to be able to build off networks like this.

"The Southeast U.S. cannot be ignored when it comes to the impacts of climate change, and this is a first step."

With a climate-change network in place, CLiPSE researchers conducted a partner-needs assessment for resources. Stakeholders continue to review resources, totaling more than 2,000, to ensure they are valid and appropriate for the target audiences and they will soon be catalogued online along with the strategic plan at http://www.clipse-project.org.

"The materials are implementable in both formal and informal venues; there's an avenue for multiple target audiences to use elements of what we have produced; and there's a resource database for sixth- through 12th-grade educators that are aligned to state standards," McNeal noted.

CLiPSE's approximately 70 partners are preparing for the second phase of work, which will include adding to the climate-change resources they've already gathered and distributing those materials to stakeholders, as well as pilot-testing elements of the strategic plan, such as holding public dialogues.

"The next step for us is funding: we're looking for philanthropists and others who might be interested in privately funding the second phase of the project," McNeal said.

To donate to CLiPSE, contact McNeal at ksm163@msstate.edu or Julian Carroll, CLiPSE project coordinator and MSU geosciences program coordinator, at julian.carroll@cobilan.msstate.edu. To learn more about CLiPSE or its resources, visit http://www.clipse-project.org.

Leah Barbour | University Relations

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