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CRESCENDOschools network – studying climate science with school students more important than ever

By Alberto Muñoz (UNIVLEEDS, UK), Helena Martins (SMHI, Sweden) and Nada Caud (IPSL-CNRS, France).

The CRESCENDOschools network has just started work on an exciting new goal of partnering some of our research institutes with nearby schools.  We will be working and interacting with 16-18 years old students to co-develop novel, educational and informative materials and activities on climate change and climate models. Three schools in Europe have already embarked on this new venture which will see students, teachers and researchers meeting up over the next year to work together on new ways to share project finding with the wider community and increase awareness and understanding about the science behind climate change.

It was the middle of March 2016 when the Dissemination team for CRESCENDO met for the first time in Paris at the ICSU headquarters to discuss and plan the project’s strategy and short term plans with regards to knowledge dissemination and public engagement over the next 5 years. The CRESCENDOschools network was officially born on that day with an overarching goal; to form a network of “ambassador” schools in European countries to help us develop suitable and novel educational materials on suitable platforms to engage students with the topic of Climate change and Earth system modelling.

Over the following months it was crucial to refine the idea, draft an Expression of Interest document shaped for the three countries involved and decide when the right time to approach the schools was going to be. One thing that became clear from the beginning was that school students will benefit from developing a range of transferable skills over the course of this project, such as working with top-class researchers, learning about cutting-edge tools on climate research, speaking and communicating in public or addressing some of key questions in modern society.

Thanks to the many people involved in France (Nada Caud, Yves Balkanski, Alan Damon and Denise Young), in Sweden (Helena Martins, Erik Kjellström,  Christian Andersson and Michael Hedlund) and in the UK (Colin Jones, Felicity Liggins, Mike Morley and Alberto Munoz), we now have 3 enthusiastic schools in the network: Ecole Jeannine Manuel in Paris (France) partnered with IPSL, Kunskapsgymnasiet in Norrköping (Sweden) working with scientists at SMHI, and Coombeshead Academy in Newton Abbot, near Exeter, (UK) partnered with a mix of Met Office, NCAS and University of Exeter researchers in CRESCENDO.

The CRESCENDO project coordinator, Professor Colin Jones, based at the Met Office in Exeter, said “We are thrilled to be partnering with students from these three schools across Europe and look forward to developing new and exciting material to both increase awareness of climate change amongst students and also increase knowledge of the underpinning science involved in climate change research”. How some of the students involved are seeing this topic and project are encouraging us even more to do our best; Freya Vickridge, a student in Coombeshead Academy said: “We have to realise the threat climate change poses to our way of life. Educating people about what we know and how we know it is the only way to have a real impact on policy.” Callum Donald, also in Coombeshead Academy added: “The human impacts of climate change are going to be huge over my lifetime. Helping people to understand what’s at stake is really important to me.” Mike Morley, Deputy Team Leader of Science at Coombeshead Academy, said: “We’re delighted to be involved in the CRESCENDO project – it’s not every day that students get such an amazing opportunity to really engage with cutting-edge scientific research!”. Alan Damon, International Baccalaureate coordinator in Ecole Jeannine Manuel affirmed: “Our students are enthusiastic about working together with CRESCENDO to increase the understandings about global climate change and the applications for the current generation and for future generations”. Christian Andersson and Michael Hedlund, teachers at Kunskapsgymnasiet in Norrköping expressed their satisfaction that their students will “have the opportunity to work with a project dealing with the Earth System bringing together physics, chemistry and biology.”
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 Photo: Colin Jones presenting ‘The global climate system in 6 min’ to our group of students at Coombeshead Academy during a recent school visit.

Photo: Astrid Franssén, Caroline Hallgren, Harald Caap, students at Kunskapsgymnasiet, during a recent visit to SMHI.

After one year of working with the students, CRESCENDOschools will help students share what they have developed and learned across the 3 schools, with the potential of some students attending our next General Assembly in 2017 in September/October time in Paris. There, they will be invited to present their work to the project partners as well as having the opportunity to interact with the students from the other schools and with  CRESCENDO researchers.

Our long-term aim is keep the Network active through to the project end (Oct 2020) and we definitely plan to grow it over the coming 4 years. This is an exciting time ahead and recent political changes, that could jeopardise the enacting of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, have done only underlined the importance of helping school students to understand climate change. We hope that CRESCENDOschools will aid future generations to understand and take on the global challenge that faces us.

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