Adaptation in Education

By Carolyn Rumery Betz

The global scale of climate change, and the long time span over which it occurs, can make it a difficult topic for educators. But two Wisconsin environmental education centers are meeting the challenge with new educational exhibits: the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona and the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland.

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The Aldo Leopold Nature Center has expanded its traditional environmental education experience for school-age children with its climate exhibit. Combined with "high-touch" outdoor programs, the new "hightech" exhibit uses multimedia and interactive programming, including digital, visual, hands-on and immersive experiences for all ages.

Exhibit highlights include "Science on a Sphere," a high-definition global projection system that displays NOAA and NASA planetary data, and "Global Warming: Facts and Our Future," a powerful interactive exhibit developed by the Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences.

With the recent additions, the Aldo Leopold Nature Center will serve even more school-aged visitors each year — nearly 50,000 and counting. Educational content and programming meet national standards for

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science literacy. "This digital curriculum allows us to be flexible and current," says Brenna Holzhauer, the center's manager of exhibits and digital curricula. "Using touchscreen technology, we're able to regularly update our content and ensure that it is accessible and relevant at the local level."

The exhibit uses information from WICCI's 2011 report, which identifies climate change impacts and adaptation strategies. The Aldo Leopold Nature Center uses a dozen videos (found at climatewisconsin. org) developed by the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board that focus on how climate change affects agriculture, forestry, trout fishing and other fundamental Wisconsin attributes.

The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland also uses WICCI resources in its exhibit, Gikinoo'wizhiwe Onji Waaban (Guiding for Tomorrow), or "G'WOW." The "Changing Climate, Changing Culture" exhibit integrates climate science with place-based evidence of how climate change is affecting the natural resources used by the Ojibwe. The exhibit is part of a larger outreach effort that, like the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, uses touchscreen technology to deepen the learning experience.

Bringing Native perspectives into the conversation is important because the Ojibwe, like other tribes, rely on traditional, local resources such as wild rice that may dramatically change under a warmer, drier climate.

"The G'WOW Initiative helps people discover that culture and science agree — climate change is real," says Cathy Techtmann, UWExtension environmental outreach specialist based at the Great Lakes Visitor Center. "Visitors can see how climate change is affecting Native traditional cultural practices, how it is affecting their culture and community, and what they can do about it."