Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Project and Summit at UCLA Aims to Advance Teaching and Learning About the Climate Crisis and Its Solutions in California

The Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Project, a UC - CSU collaboration, seeks to strengthen the state's teacher preparation, support for student engagement.

Aiming to dramatically expand opportunities for students to learn about climate change and take part in effective solutions, more than 200 higher education leaders, PK–12 educators, researchers, policymakers and others gathered at UCLA, Thursday, December 12 to take part in the Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Project and Summit (ECCLPS). The meeting is being held during the United Nations’ Climate Change Summit in Madrid, with the expectation of “Today California, Tomorrow the World.”

The purpose of the ECCLPS is to inform and encourage the advancement of pre-kindergarten–12 environmental and climate change literacy through the preparation, development and support of future and current teachers in California. By ensuring that California educators have the knowledge, skills, support and opportunities they need to address climate issues, the initiative aims to help more than 500,000 high school students each year to become literate in environmental and climate change issues and solutions. The summit was organized by a coalition of faculty and administrative leaders from across the California State University and the University of California, in partnership with the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and others. 

“As recent fires in our state have made all too clear, the harsh effects of a warming planet are already upon us. California institutions of higher education are leading the way by developing and implementing solutions that will bend the curve on climate change and alter the trajectory of this crisis,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “UC faculty and administrators are proud to partner with our colleagues at CSU and beyond to share our research, ideas, and expertise and educate the next generation of climate champions.”

“The science is clear, we face an urgent environmental crisis of climate disruption. There is still time to solve the problem and avoid catastrophes,” added V. Ram Ramanathan, Endowed Frieman Presidential Chair in Climate Sustainability, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California and a steering committee co-chair for the summit. “Responding to that challenge will require a fundamental societal transformation. Education of children and youth must be one of the pillars of that transformation if we are to succeed”

ECCLPS participants took part in presentations highlighting the urgent nature of the climate crisis and need for action and bend-the-curve solutions to mitigate environmental and climate disruptions. Panel discussions explored strategies and steps to strengthen teacher preparation and support to advance environmental and climate learning and literacy. Working group roundtable sessions examined best practices, recommendations and action steps for scale-up and implementation of the recommendations. A partial list of presenters at the summit include UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, UC President Janet Napolitano, former California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., California Lt. Governor Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, and teachers and researchers among others. 

“The California State University is deeply committed to continuing to partner with the University of California and other stakeholders in this consequential initiative,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “The mission and work of ECCLPS are closely aligned with the CSU’s holistic efforts to incorporate sustainability throughout our curricula and every aspect of our operations across our 23 campuses. And with its emphasis on teacher preparation and the power of education at scale, ECCLPS plays to some of the CSU’s greatest strengths.”

ECCLPS is intended to serve as a catalyst for action in support of those efforts. At the summit ECCLPS issued a new reportAchieving Climate Stability and Environmental Sustainability: PK–12 Education as Part of the Solution for Bending the Curve. The report identifies innovative, practical and scalable solutions to prepare and support future and current teachers to educate students about environmental issues and climate change. 

“Young people are the key,” said Marcelo Suárez Orozco, Wasserman Dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and ECCLPS steering committee co-chair. “As we saw in the recent climate strikes, their urgency and advocacy can make a tremendous difference. We must expand opportunities for every student to learn about climate change and act on what they learn to benefit the common good.”

The report includes a series of recommendations developed by the members of ECCLPS subcommittees focused on the pre-service development of new teachers, the in-service training of current teachers, and strategies to strengthen curriculum to enhance learning about the environment and climate. The recommendations align with and build on existing environmental and climate education initiatives and efforts. Detailed descriptions of these specific recommendations are available in the online and print versions of the report. The subcommittees also made overarching recommendations. These include:

  • Integration of environmental and climate change literacy across all subjects
  • Establishment of an official California State Taskforce for the promotion of environmental and climate change literacy
  • The engagement of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to update and refine leaning opportunities for current pre-service teachers in support of environmental and climate literacy
  • The expansion of access to Earth Science with an emphasis on climate for high school students. 

The University of California and California State University are engaged in and collaborating on significant efforts to combat climate change. Both the CSU and UC systems have made commitments to be climate neutral by 2030 and both institutions are signatories to the UN Declaration of Climate Emergency. Together, the two systems train 56 percent of teachers in the state and offer significant professional development and support. They have a crucial role to play in building in the capacity of California education system to teach about the environment and climate. The formation of ECCLPS represents a commitment by faculty and administrators in the UC and CSU to support PK–12 initiatives to further environmental and climate change literacy among teachers and students.

ECCLPS is a collaborative effort of educators, faculty and researchers across the UC and CSU systems, as well as environmental advocates, policymakers and others focused on integrating environmental and climate literacy across the PK–12 education system, with a focus on future and current teacher preparation and support. In addition to V. Ram Ramanathan and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, ECCLPS steering committee co-chairs include Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Educator Preparation and Public Schools Programs, CSU Office of the Chancellor; and Fred Uy, Director, Educator Preparation and Public School Programs and Co-Director, Center for the Advancement of Instruction in Quantitative Reasoning, CSU Office of the Chancellor.

A summary and complete version of the ECCLPS report, “Achieving Climate Stability and Environmental Sustainability,” are available online at https://tinyurl.com/ECCLPSreport.