Climate change, do kids get it?

Published October 15, 2009

Climate change is a complex issue that is a major concern to the public. The topic sparks debate and is gaining major attention around the world. Climate change is so popular that it's this year's theme for Blog Action Day, an annual web event held on October 15th that unites the world's bloggers in posting an issue on the same day to trigger discussion.  So today we'd like to share what we know about kids and climate change. In a recent study done by the Ocean Project, it was found that most people do not associate climate change and carbon pollution with ocean health. When the truth is, climate change is adversely affecting the marine environment in particular—evident through sea level rise, elevated water temperature, coral bleaching, and acidification. At the Aquarium we spend a lot of time educating visitors on environmental concerns through our exhibits and outreach events, and we also spend a lot of time educating children, and listening to children. We know that general public awareness about the critical role the ocean plays in the Earth’s climate system is low but, strangely, we have found that youth seem to be more connected  to this issue than adults. More importantly, they are committed to understanding and talking about climate change. This is also confirmed by a recent finding from The Ocean Project national survey (2009) which indicates that the audience that is most committed to climate change literacy and action is the 12-20 year old. Teens serve as model interpreters to discuss climate change, maybe because they have can explain in very simple terms. This concept is the basis for a new program being developed by a coalition of Aquariums educating about climate change. The collaboration, which includes the National Aquarium,  Monterey Bay Aquarium and New England Aquarium, was awarded nearly $1.5 million by NOAA for the creation of a multi-faceted climate change program with youth training at its core.  The National Aquarium has received a $480,000 from NOAA to take the lead in developing a training program for youth interpreters to engage visitors in conversations about the impacts climate change has had on ocean health that will be modeled in Aquariums and informal science education institutions across the country. The program will begin next spring, as a part of a youth volunteer training program already in place at the Aquarium. If you are having a hard time understanding climate change and its impact, try asking a teenager to explain what they know about climate change. Let us know what you find out!
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