Partnership Supports Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Climate Change

by Diane VanDyke

Montgomery County Community College, through a grant provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), will collaborate with Dickinson College and other community colleges to develop a comprehensive teaching strategy to incorporate climate change and sustainability concepts throughout its curriculum.

NASA, as part of its Cooperative Agreement Notice, “Global Climate Change Education: Research Experiences, Teaching and Learning,” awarded a $486,919 grant to Dickinson College, which will work with its community college partners—Montgomery County Community College, Northampton Community College, Harrisburg Area Community College and Montgomery College in Maryland—to promote interdisciplinary teaching about climate change.

Geology Professor Robert Kuhlman will lead the initiative for MCCC and will be working closely with Neil Leary, director of Dickinson College’s Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education.  Representatives from participating colleges will serve on a Climate Change Curriculum Task Force that will shape the development of the curriculum and teaching practices.

In addition to resources and materials provided by NASA, task force members will be able to utilize information from the Center for Climate System Research at Columbia University.

“These are pertinent, timely issues,” Kuhlman said. “This program will enable us to tap into talent and expertise beyond Montgomery County Community College and then allow us to integrate this information and make changes here at the College to further enhance the program for our students.”

While these concepts are currently taught in environmental and science classes at the College, the program will strengthen the quantitative elements in the existing instruction and will help to infuse climate change and sustainability into a variety of courses, Kuhlman explained.

“In mathematics, for example, professors can incorporate the rate of decline of arctic sea ice, the loss of tropical rainforests and the collapse of the cod and salmon populations in their illustrations as part of what they are teaching,” he said.

The Earth’s evolving climate not only produces environmental changes, but also economic, social and political ramifications. Professors can include and discuss these results in economics, political science, history and humanities classes.

“The College acknowledged this by its decision to incorporate concepts of sustainability in our new Core curriculum,” he said.

Kuhlman will meet with the Task Force members in mid February to start discussing the new curriculum. He plans to participate in residential curriculum development workshops at Dickinson College beginning in May. Training will continue through the summer with the goal of implementing elements of the new curriculum in the fall in geography and science courses at both Central and West campuses.

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