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Convenient Truth

Regional universities collaborate on global warming education.

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Al Gore would be proud.

Three area universities — Ole Miss, Mississippi State University, and the University of Alabama at Huntsville — are working together to improve global climate change education.

The Climate Literacy Partnership in the Southeast United States, or CLiPSE, will survey students and teachers in the Mid-South on their understanding of climate change and provide them with a more accurate perspective. CLiPSE will also help future science educators learn how to apply climate change education in the classroom.

The first goal of the 15-member CLiPSE group involves building a network of people who are responsible for educating the public about climate change. They're seeking educators at grade schools, universities, nature centers, museums, and churches throughout the Southeast.

David Rutherford, assistant professor of public policy leadership at Ole Miss, said CLiPSE will improve the information that organizations are dispensing to the public.

"We want to have a better-educated public about climate, climate systems, how climates are changing, and what effect that's going to have on our environment, our society, and how we conduct our lives," said Rutherford, a co-principal investigator of CLiPSE.

The program is funded by a $1 million grant by the National Science Foundation's Climate Change Education Partnership. There were over 160 proposals from across the country but only 15 were chosen. The two-year grant will pay for phase one of CLiPSE, which began last September.

In phase one, the group will work toward gathering a local network of climate change educators. Phase two, for which the group is creating a grant proposal, involves implementing climate change education across the Southeast. Part of that will involve the creation of a website with lesson plans for teachers.

The partnership between Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and the University of Alabama came about when the National Science Foundation mandated that the project include a variety of climate scientists and learning scientists (those who study how people learn in different environments).

"As we were looking around to write the proposal, we realized some of the best climate scientists in the world are at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Some very excellent learning scientists are at Mississippi State University, and here at Ole Miss, we have some pretty strong capacity in network development and partnership building," Rutherford said.

Karen McNeal, principal investigator of CLiPSE and an assistant professor in geosciences at MSU, said she hopes the program will help people find answers to climate questions.

Said McNeal: "We hope to ... train target audiences in the Southeast to use critical thinking to evaluate relevant and accurate climate science information and data so that they can make ... appropriate climate change solutions."

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