Improving culturally relevant educational resources in lesson plans on climate science in Guam

PI: Romina King, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Guam
Co-PI: Cassandra-Jay T. Flores-Hughes, School of Eduction/Geography Department, University of Guam
Co-I: Suzanne Bells, Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Guam


Flores-Hughes examines a map with a highschool studentFlores-Hughes working with Guam Geography students in the classroom.

Background
    With climate variability increasing at alarming rates and the impacts being felt across the Pacific Islands, teachers in the region feel challenged to bring that information into the classroom, particularly in a way that reaches the students. Lesson plans designed to teach climate science specific to the Pacific Islands region give teachers the opportunity to be more culturally relevant in the classroom (Kisha Borja-Quichocho, Calvo personal communication Fall 2016). Complicating the teachers' job of creating these lesson plans are all the other aspects of teaching they must juggle: they are researchers, parent substitutes, organizers, advisors, learners, facilitators, sages, leaders, coaches, counselors, special educators, and nurturers (Morrison, 2009). Since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are held accountable for their content knowledge and professional duties now than ever before (Morrison, 2009).
    For teachers in Guam, who teach the most diverse cross-section of students in Micronesia, having access to local educational resources on Guam's climate science would greatly enhance their teaching of climate change in the classroom. Creating such materials themselves, however, would be complex and time-consuming, especially with the rapid changes to climate and the necessity to provide as accurate and up-to-date information as possible.

Project Summary
    To make such climate science more accessible to local teachers, this project aims to fill a void by developing lesson plans that are easily accessible, culturally relevant to Guam, complemented with locally authored resources, and aligned with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Guam Department of Education (GDOE) Content Standards. The immediate goal is to integrate Pacific science literature and local educational resources with the standards to produce sample lesson plans that target geography teachers in Guam with 9th grade students. Topically, the plans will focus on climate patterns, weather phenomena, and sea level rise, and present the information in an age-appropriate manner, allowing the students to learn about Guam's climate science through a Pacific Islands lens.
    To accomplish this plan, first relevant materials will be gathered (locally authored works, Pacific literature on Guam's climate science, current available lesson plans, etc.). Informal interviews and focus groups with educators in Guam will help evaluate their current knowledge, and better establish the educators' needs for climate science resources. The lesson plans will then be developed integrating the science, local culture and needs, and state standards. By using the Guam Department of Education lesson plan framework, the plans should be more easily integrated into teachers' current lessons. Digital and printed copies will be distributed to local 9th grade geography teachers, for implementation and then feedback via observation, informal interviews, and survey questions. Ultimately, final versions of the lesson plans will be made accessible for download from the web. At the same site will be a database of the climate science resources gathered, which we hope encourages resource managers and educators build a climate science discourse community for students to learn about past, present, and future sea-level rise data and research.