Overview and Introduction
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has long been a global leader in studying and communicating how the Earth’s atmosphere and water systems influence people’s lives and how they influence these systems. Education has been a component of NOAA’s mission since it was created in 1970, with education projects covering a range of topics related to the agency’s scientific and stewardship mission, including oceanic, atmospheric, climate, and environmental science. Many federal agencies, including NOAA, have resources that can improve the nation’s understanding and interest in the relevant sciences and care of the planet. The importance of these interconnected fields and environmental stewardship cannot be overstated.
Although NOAA offices have long had mandates to engage in education activities, it was not until 2007 that it received an agencywide mandate for education. In that year, Congress, through the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act (P.L. 110-69), explicitly directed NOAA to engage in education activities. The act calls for NOAA to “conduct, develop, support, promote, and coordinate formal and informal educational activities at all levels to enhance public awareness and understanding of ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, and atmospheric science and stewardship.” In addition, the act called for NOAA to develop a 20-year education plan, to be reevaluated and updated every 5 years.
COMMITTEE CHARGE AND APPROACH
In recognition of the opportunity and obligation afforded by the new mandate, the NOAA Office of Education requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct a review of its existing education portfolio and plans for moving forward strategically. In response, the Board on Science Education of the NRC established the Committee for the Review of the NOAA Education Program to take stock of the existing education portfolio and review the education plan mandated by the America COMPETES Act. The committee included 14 members with expertise in the history and structure of NOAA education programs; education program evaluation; science and mathematics instruction at both the K-12 and higher education levels, with particular knowledge of oceanic, atmospheric, and climate sciences; teacher professional development; informal science education; workforce issues in the fields critical to NOAA’s mission; and national, state, and local education policies and practices. Particular emphasis was given to including individuals on the committee with a working knowledge of diversity issues (see Appendix D for biographical sketches).
The committee’s charge was to assess the agency’s role in education, its educational goals and objectives, the impact of its education programs, the composition of its education portfolio, and how the agency conducts evaluations of its education programs. To address the charge, the committee reviewed NOAA’s formal (K-12 and higher education) and informal education activities with the goal of helping the agency transform its various independent education programs and activities into a more coherent education portfolio aligned with common goals and outcomes. The committee assessed the agency’s education initiatives in the context of its Education Strategic Plan: 2009-2029 and evaluated its role in education, its program goals and objectives, its impact, its portfolio balance and priorities, and its evaluation approach. Communication and extension activities were explicitly omitted at NOAA’s request because they are the focus of a separate report, Engaging NOAA’s Constituents: A Report from the NOAA Science Advisory Board (2008; see Box 1.1 for that report’s conclusions). In carrying out the study, the committee was cognizant that the boundaries between formal education, informal education, communication, outreach, and extension are porous and blurred. NOAA categorizes activities in each of these areas as education. For the purposes of this review, we adopted NOAA’s definitions of these terms (see Box 1.2).
The committee followed an iterative process of gathering information, analyzing and deliberating on it, identifying gaps and questions, gathering additional information to fill these gaps, and carrying out further analysis. The limited time and resources for the study constrained the scope of the committee’s review to existing documentation, site visits, and discussions
Communication and Extension Activities
In Engaging NOAA’s Constituents: A Report from the NOAA Science Advisory Board, the NOAA Science Advisory Board called for the agency to dramatically change its approach to extension, outreach, and education in order to create true engagement with the public. The report has eight major conclusions:
The Extension, Outreach and Education Working Group recommended several steps that NOAA could take to improve its engagement strategy. These include devoting more resources to outreach and education, integrating outreach and extension into the Education Council’s jurisdiction, and changing incentives so that employees are evaluated on the basis of their contributions to education and outreach programs. The report also recommended greater coordination and cohesion across NOAA’s various offices and programs, with a focus on creating a more cohesive image for the public.
SOURCE: NOAA Science Advisory Board (2008).
with NOAA program and project staff. Although we did not carry out extensive original quantitative data collection, we did conduct two two-day site visits.
The committee held four public fact-finding meetings (see Appendix A for the meeting agendas). In addition, we reviewed documents related to NOAA’s education portfolio, such as budget requests, project evaluations, project plans, and other technical reports.
During the first of the four public meetings, the committee heard presentations from and engaged in discussions with staff of the NOAA Office of Education, directors of education programs, and staff who oversee the education efforts of interagency ocean groups. At the second meeting, in addition to presentations about NOAA education projects, the committee heard presentations from and engaged in discussion with members of
NOAA’s Definitions of Education, Outreach, Communication, and Extension
Formal Education: Learning within a structured education system in which children or adults are required to demonstrate proficiency.
Informal Education: Learning outside the established formal education system that meets clearly defined objectives through organized education activities.
Outreach for Education: Activities that are designed to build awareness, develop relationships, promote education products, and inspire educators, students, and the public to pursue further learning opportunities.
Communication: The process of delivering a message or other information through various media, whether verbal or nonverbal. The Office of Communications provides information about NOAA and the products and services it provides to the media, government officials, and the public.
Extension: Sustained interaction with specific audiences using education techniques to transfer science-based information or skills that inform decision making and/or change behavior.
SOURCE: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2009, p. 37).
interagency climate and atmospheric science and science education groups, and other marine, earth science, and environmental education organizations. The final two meetings included presentations from NOAA education programs, a discussion with a panel of experts on issues related to broadening participation in fields critical to NOAA’s mission, and a set of presentations on NOAA’s evaluation efforts in education.
The committee also had four background papers prepared.1 One paper examined the existing external evaluations of NOAA’s education projects (Brackett, 2009). A second paper summarized what is known about teaching and learning essential concepts in subjects related to NOAA’s mission (Tran, 2009). A third paper described issues related to participation of underserved and underrepresented populations in fields related to NOAA’s mission (Levine et al., 2009). A fourth paper explored how well the multiple, often small education programs spread across NOAA serve the larger educational goals of the agency (Clune, 2009). As noted, committee members conducted two site visits (see Appendix B for site visit agendas) to interview education specialists, experience NOAA-sponsored activities firsthand, and learn how education programs are managed.
See http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bose/NOAA_Commissioned_Papers.html [accessed May 2010].
NATIONAL EDUCATION NEEDS RELATED TO NOAA’S MISSION
In order to review NOAA’s role in education, it was necessary to identify and understand the need for education in areas related to the agency’s mission, as well as the various ways that other federal agencies are or could be involved in education.
Meeting the many needs of the nation requires a diverse workforce, adequate in number, with expertise across a broad range of scientific and technical disciplines. This workforce should understand how to apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to the solution of problems confronted every day throughout society. A democratic society needs all citizens to be scientifically literate in order to participate fully in national debates about urgent policy issues, such as climate change and alternative fuels. The importance of NOAA’s role in education is directly related to the need for a scientifically literate society and a well-prepared workforce in fields related to its mission.
As far back as 1929, the NRC emphasized that the United States would realize advances in science and mathematics knowledge only by training a workforce that is knowledgeable about science, is sufficient in size and ability, and is afforded continual educational opportunities (National Academy of Sciences, 1929). In the past five years there has been increased attention to STEM and environmental education issues. The America COMPETES Act and some high-profile reports highlight the critical importance of science education to the future of the world economy and public literacy. The National Academies report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, 2007), pointed out the declining competitiveness of the United States in terms of scientific competence and discoveries and made recommendations to counteract this downward spiral. Paramount is an emphasis on the high-quality education necessary to produce the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Currently, it is not clear that a sufficient science and engineering workforce is being prepared. The Congressional Research Service (2008) reports that, although the number of degrees in some STEM fields (particularly biology and computer science) has increased, the overall proportion of STEM degrees awarded in the United States has historically remained at about the same low percentage. In 2002-2003, STEM degrees were about 15 percent of all associate degrees, 17 percent of baccalaureate degrees, 13 percent of master’s degrees, and 35 percent of doctoral degrees. The United States ranks about 20th among nations in the proportion of 24-year-olds who earn degrees in natural science or engineering. In addition, enrollment of U.S. citizens in graduate science and engineering programs has lagged
that of foreign students in these programs. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Survey of Earned Doctorates, foreign students earned one-third of all doctoral degrees awarded in the United States in 2003. Still, the silver lining here is that between 50 and 60 percent of these foreign students become integrated into the U.S. workforce, and many remain in the United States for years, if not permanently.
While precise estimates have not been developed, there is a growing concern that in the next 10 years perhaps as many as half of the skilled workforce presently occupying critical positions in the federal government will retire (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004). In addition, the mix of skills needed to bring the ocean, atmosphere, and climate workforce into the new millennium is not clear (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004). Overall, the United States risks a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace and increasing environmental problems. The disparity of individuals from ethnic minority or underrepresented populations in these scientific fields is a particular concern (Cucker, 2001; Huntoon and Lane, 2007; Levine, González, and Martínez-Sussmann, 2009).
In today’s competitive world of knowledge-based and technology-driven economies, the global market (including living resources, transportation, urbanization, tourism, and renewable and nonrenewable energy) and associated services (engineering, transportation, environmental monitoring, resource management, policy and governance, education, etc.) depend on increasing knowledge concerning the atmosphere and land and marine environments. This requires that the federal government, states, municipalities, and the public make informed decisions. Moving forward also necessitates a capable and informed workforce.
The picture of science education illuminated by recent reports (e.g., Congressional Research Service, 2008; National Research Council, 2006; U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004; U.S. Department of Education, 2007) also illustrates many shortcomings related to the development of a scientifically literate society. Relatively few students relate to scientific concepts or understand scientific processes (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989), and the nation does not perform as well as other developed countries in science and mathematics education (Lemke and Gonzales, 2006; Mullis et. al., 2007). Likewise, literacy issues have been noted in areas specifically related to NOAA’s mission. The American public has only a superficial awareness of the importance of the ocean, the atmosphere, and climate in daily life, let alone its importance to all life on the planet (Belden et al., 2001; U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004). There are increasing calls for improved oceanic, atmospheric, and climate education, yet there is evidence that the amount of time devoted to science education in the elementary grades of some states has decreased since the
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation became a law (Center on Education Policy, 2007; Dorph et al., 2007).
Clearly there is a need to address the shortcomings in science education, particularly in areas related to NOAA’s mission. Federal agencies have an important role and have long been important actors in STEM education. Although not all federal science agencies have an explicit education mission, most have made efforts to reach out to students, teachers, and the public to inform them about STEM issues. Agencies that have developed education programs related to planetary, environmental, and scientific processes include NOAA, the U.S. Navy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NSF, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Minerals Management Service, the U.S. National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
A persistent concern about these federal education programs is that they are not well coordinated across or even within agencies, and funding mechanisms and resources are seldom well utilized (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2006; Business Roundtable, 2005; Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and Technology, 1992; Lewis, 2005; National Research Council, 2006; National Summit on Competitiveness, 2005; U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, 2004; U.S. Department of Education, 2007). Even within individual agencies, offices that carry out education initiatives often do not collaborate or communicate with each other.
The lack of coordination across federal agencies, combined with the increasing urgency of developing the nation’s workforce and scientific literacy needs, heightens the need to carefully consider the potential role of NOAA and other agencies in the national education landscape. The history and structure of the agency provide an important context for understanding NOAA’s role.
HISTORY AND STRUCTURE
In a speech before Congress in July 1970, President Richard Nixon created NOAA by executive order by combining a number of federal agencies. Its creation, coupled with the creation of the EPA, was part of an effort to unify the nation’s widely scattered, piecemeal environmental activities and provide a rational and systematic approach to understanding, protecting, developing, and enhancing the environment. NOAA was to lead the development of a consolidated national oceanic and atmospheric research and development program and provide a variety of scientific and technical services to other federal agencies, private-sector interests, and the public. Specifically, NOAA was established as a science-based agency, responsible for
predicting changes in the oceanic and atmospheric environments and living marine resources and providing related data, information, and services.
Three of the agencies initially brought together under NOAA were the oldest agencies in the United States: the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the U.S. Environmental Science Services Administration (ESSA), and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey was renamed the National Geodetic Survey, housed in NOAA’s National Ocean Service. The mission of ESSA, which had been created in 1965 as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, was to oversee the nation’s weather and climate operations and included the Weather Bureau and National Data Center. In January 1966, ESSA changed the Weather Bureau’s name to the National Weather Service (NWS), and the National Data Center was renamed the Environmental Data Service (EDS). The U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries—the nation’s first federal conservation agency, initiated in 1871 to protect, study, manage, and restore fish—became NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, or NOAA Fisheries. Since its creation in 1970, NOAA has continued to expand through the incorporation of other agencies and the creation of new programs. The agency currently has six line offices:
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research,
National Ocean Service,
National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Services,
National Marine Fisheries Service,
National Weather Service, and
Program Planning and Integration.
These were incorporated into the agency at different times and through different processes (see Box 1.3 for details on the six line offices; see Figure 1.1 for the 2008 organizational chart). The focus of each line office is determined by its distinct missions and congressional mandates.
NOAA’s mission statement does not include education, yet dedication to education is underscored by the agency’s vision to develop a society that is informed on issues related to its mission (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2009). Also, there are a number of education objectives within each of the agency’s four broad goals: (1) to protect, restore, and manage coastal and ocean resources; (2) to understand climate variability and change to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond; (3) to serve society’s needs for weather and water information; and (4) to support commerce with information for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound transportation (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2009).
NOAA Line Offices
The NOAA website provides these descriptions of the six line offices:
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR – http://www.oarhq.noaa.gov) provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with NOAA’s other organizational units, OAR makes better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth possible. OAR’s role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally and globally.
National Ocean Service (NOS – http://www.nos.noaa.gov) keeps ocean and coastal areas safe, healthy, and productive. The NOS serves America by conserving marine and coastal places for present and future generations, ensuring safe and efficient maritime transportation, and promoting innovative science and technology solutions to coastal challenges.
National Weather Service (NWS – http://www.weather.gov) provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters, and ocean areas for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy. NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure for use by other government agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community.
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS – http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov) is responsible for the management, conservation, and protection of living marine resources within the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone. NMFS assesses and predicts the status of fish stocks, ensures compliance with fisheries regulations, works to reduce wasteful fishing practices, and recovers protected marine species without unnecessarily impeding economic and recreational opportunities.
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS – http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov) provides timely access to global environmental data from satellites and other sources to promote, protect, and enhance the Nation’s economy, security, environment, and quality of life. To fulfill its responsibilities, NESDIS acquires and manages the Nation’s operational environmental satellites, provides data and information services and conducts related research.
Office of Program Planning and Integration (PPI – http://www.ppi.noaa.gov) provides corporate management to coordinate NOAA’s many lines of service with the nation’s many needs for environmental information and stewardship. It ensures that investments and actions are guided by a strategic plan; are based on sound social and economic analysis; adhere to executive and legislative science, technology, and environmental policy; and integrate the full breadth of NOAA’s resources, knowledge, and talent to achieve its mission.
SOURCE: See http://www.dco.noaa.gov/transition/structure/lineoffices.html [accessed May 2010].
Education at NOAA
When NOAA was created, its operational mission was well defined, but without any agencywide role in education. Since its creation, individual programs have received mandates to be involved in education. For example, in 1970 NSF’s National Sea Grant Program, an academic/industry/government partnership to enhance the nation’s education, economy, and environment, became part of NOAA and was mandated to support education activities. Two years later, the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, which is also mandated by law to include education initiatives, was established by the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (P.L. 92-532). Also in 1972, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, which has a mandate to conduct education activities, became part of NOAA. Box 1.4 lists the other programs and the laws that mandate them to support education throughout NOAA’s history.
As noted, the America COMPETES Act recently defined NOAA’s educational role: to advance environmental literacy; to promote a diverse workforce in ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, weather, and climate sciences; and to encourage stewardship and informed decision making for the nation. NOAA fulfills this role through its Office of Education and its Education Council. The Education Council, which includes leadership from all of NOAA’s major education initiatives, was created to coordinate education activities across NOAA and oversee the development and implementation of its strategic education plan.
Brief Education Program Descriptions
Five of NOAA’s line offices—the National Ocean Service, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, NWS, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service—along with the Office of Education, develop and support the majority of the agency’s education activities. In addition, NOAA provides an unquantified number of scientific research grants and contracts that include education (via support of student research and other efforts) as part of their research program. The committee focused its review on the more robust education programs across the five line offices of the agency and the Office of Education. Brief descriptions of these programs are provided below, and more detailed descriptions can be found in Chapter 4. The range of activities across these programs illustrates the breadth of NOAA’s education activities and the resulting challenge inherent in developing a coordinated, agencywide approach to education.
Overall, NOAA is supporting education projects that address the needs of individuals of varied ages and backgrounds, and the projects reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the scientific research, stewardship activities, technology development, and engineering design of the agency. The educational portfolio includes activities that occur in formal and informal learning environments. Across these learning environments, NOAA primarily provides science education and environmental science education activities, which overlap but have distinct features.
The majority of science and science education in NOAA is categorized as earth systems science: the study of the unified set of physical, chemical, biological, and social components, processes, and interactions that together determine the state and dynamics of Planet Earth, with an emphasis on observing, understanding, and predicting global environmental changes (Earth System Science Partnership, 2009). Through its stewardship role, NOAA also engages in environmental science and environmental education activities.
The America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69) requires that NOAA create a 20-year education strategic plan, and that “the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shall conduct, develop, support, promote, and coordinate formal and informal educational activities at all levels to enhance public awareness and understanding of ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, and atmospheric science and stewardship by the general public and other coastal stakeholders, including underrepresented groups in ocean and atmospheric science and policy careers. In conducting those activities, the Administrator shall build upon the educational programs and activities of the agency” (Sec. 4002). In addition to this charge, NOAA is to be a full participant in any interagency effort promoting innovation and/or economic competitiveness.
The Coral Reef Conservation Act (P.L. 106-562) requires that any activities funded by this act also enhance public awareness, education, understanding, and appreciation of coral reef ecosystems.
The Coastal Zone Management Act (P.L. 109-58); Section 1461 discusses the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and requires NOAA to acknowledge that any designation of a reserve provides the opportunity to enhance public awareness and understanding of estuarine areas and provides suitable opportunities for public education and interpretation.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (P.L. 109-479) contains some very specific restrictions on NOAA education. For example, before entering a Pacific Insular Area fishery agreement, the marine conservation plan should include (but not be limited to) conservation, education, and enforcement activities related to marine and coast management. It also requires that there should be grants to the University of Hawaii for technical assistance projects by the Pacific Island Network, such as education and training in the development and implementation of sustainable marine resources development projects, scientific research, and conservation strategies. Other objectives in-
National Ocean Service
The National Ocean Service runs three major education programs, and a suite of education projects and materials are managed by the National Ocean Service corporate office.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of 27 protected areas established for long-term research, education, and stewardship. It is a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states that protects more than 1 million acres of estuarine land and water. Educational programming linked to research and stewardship has been incorporated at the reserves since their inception in 1972. The goals of NERRS education activities are to enhance public awareness and under-
clude the establishment of a pilot program for regionally based marine education and training programs in the Western Pacific and the Northern Pacific that focus on stewardship of living marine resources. This would include the establishment of “programs or projects that will improve communication, education, and training on marine resource issues throughout the region and increase scientific education for marine related professions among coastal community residents, including indigenous Pacific islanders, Native Hawaiians, Alaskan Natives, and other underrepresented groups in the region.” There are additional educational objectives targeting Western Pacific Demonstration Projects and an important study on the shortage of individuals with postbaccalaureate degrees in subjects related to fishery science. The secretaries of commerce and education were tasked to transmit a report to Congress detailing the findings and recommendations of the study under this section.
The National Marine Sanctuary Program supports research, monitoring, evaluation, and education programs that are in line with the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (P.L. 106-513, Sections 1431 et seq.). Under this act, educational efforts must emphasize the conservation goals and sustainable public uses of national marine sanctuaries. This would include any of the target audiences (the public, teachers, students, national marine sanctuary users, and ocean and coastal resource managers) as well as any interpretive facilities that are constructed or developed.
The National Sea Grant College Program Act (33 U.S.C. 1123(d)(3)(B)) has been amended by the addition of the following phrase: “encourage and promote coordination and cooperation between the research, education, and outreach programs of the Administration and those of academic institutions,” which clearly supports the enhanced coordination between and within agencies. This is also spelled out in Section 9 of the National Sea Grant College Program Act Amendments of 2002 (H.R. 3389), which requires an annual report on how NOAA will accomplish this goal.
standing of estuarine areas and provide suitable opportunities for public education and interpretation. Most reserves also provide K-12 education, ranging from hands-on field experiences for students to professional development opportunities for teachers.
The 13 National Marine Sanctuaries, established by the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, and a National Marine Monument, established by the Antiquities Act of 2006, promote public understanding of national marine heritage and the marine environment. Educational materials for students and teachers are provided online through the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and hands-on education experiences are also available at each sanctuary. Oceans Live is a national program that connects the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to the public
through telepresence. It links existing systemwide oceanographic monitoring programs with interactive telepresence technology.
The Coral Reef Conservation Program (in multiple offices) was established in 2000 and is a partnership between the NOAA line offices working on coral reef issues, including the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the National Environmental Satellites, Data, and Information Service. The program brings together expertise from NOAA’s line offices for a multidisciplinary approach to managing and understanding coral reef ecosystems. The education activities are focused on the three major threats of climate change, land-based sources of pollution, and fishing impacts. The goal of these education activities is to promote an informed society that understands the value of coral reef ecosystems, the threats they face, and the actions individuals can take to reduce human impacts on them.
The National Ocean Service corporate office education team is responsible for the development of teacher professional development opportunities, online curricular resources, and partnerships with groups such as the National Science Teachers Association and the Council of State Science Supervisors.
Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) line office runs three major education programs.
The National Sea Grant Program (Sea Grant) is a nationwide network of university-based programs that aims to foster environmental stewardship, long-term economic development, and responsible use of the nation’s coastal, oceanic, and Great Lakes resources. This program was established almost 40 years ago and consists of 30 individual programs based at universities across the country, the Sea Grant Educators Network, the Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, and the Graduate Fellowship Program. The program has a long tradition of supporting environmental literacy through education, working with K-12 teachers, bringing students out of the classroom and into the natural environment, and supporting undergraduate and graduate students.
The Ocean Explorer Program (a partnership between the National Ocean Service and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research), serves as a public archive of the exploration program, chronicling many of the missions with daily logs, background essays, and multimedia offerings. Educational materials are developed through collaborations between ocean explorers and teachers. In addition, the recent addition of the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer, which travels around the globe to map the seafloor and characterize largely unknown areas of the ocean, supports education
activities through use of real-time broadband satellite communications to connect the ship and its discoveries with audiences ashore.
The Climate Program Office takes an audience-focused approach to promoting climate science literacy among the public. The program office communicates the challenges, processes, and results of NOAA-supported climate science through stories and data visualizations on the web and in popular media. It provides information to a range of audiences to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond to climate variability and change. The office led the interagency development of climate literacy principles and is developing a variety of electronic and professional development programs.
Office of Education
The Office of Education also runs three major educational programs and two scholarship initiatives.
Environmental Literacy Grants provide funding for environmental literacy projects in support of K-12 and informal education. Funded projects are between one and five years in duration and promote changes in K-12 or informal education to expand the amount of earth systems science taught in the classroom and improve student learning and application of that subject. Projects are reviewed based on incorporation of NOAA data, data visualizations, and resources and are encouraged to further the use of earth systems science concepts related to NOAA’s mission goals, such as the concepts articulated in the Ocean Literacy and Climate Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts.
The Bay-Watershed Education and Training Program provides grants in support of locally relevant experiential learning in the K-12 system. The program currently operates in the Chesapeake Bay area, California, and Hawaii and just recently expanded to include three new regions: the Northeast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest. Funded projects involve watershed educational experiences addressing regional priorities and provide hands-on watershed education to students and teachers to foster stewardship. The program also claims to support larger scale impacts, such as systematic, long-term professional development for teachers to improve their capacity to teach, inspire, and lead young people toward thoughtful stewardship.
The Educational Partnership Program provides financial assistance through four competitive program components: the Cooperative Science Centers, the Environmental Entrepreneurship Program, the Graduate Sciences Program, and the Undergraduate Scholarship Program. The program focuses on underrepresented populations in fields related to NOAA’s mission through partnerships with minority-serving institutions. It consists of training initiatives designed to address the full spectrum of capacity-
building opportunities, including student training, peer and collaborative research, and faculty staff exchanges.
The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program was authorized by Congress soon after her death in June 2000, as a means of honoring the marine biologist’s work and contribution to the nation. The program recognizes outstanding scholarship and encourages independent graduate-level research, particularly by female and minority students, in oceanography, marine biology, and maritime archaeology.
The Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program was created in 2005 to honor retiring Senator Ernest F. Hollings. It provides undergraduate students with awards that include academic assistance; a 10-week, full-time internship position at a NOAA facility during the summer; and academic assistance for a second academic year if the student is reappointed. The purpose of the internship after the first year of the award is to provide scholars with hands-on educational training experience in NOAA-related science, research, technology, policy, management, and education activities.
National Weather Service
The NWS provides a variety of educational resources to classrooms and the public, although it does not have a concerted education program. StormReady and TsunamiReady are its major national programs with an education component. They are community preparedness programs that use a grassroots approach to helping communities develop plans to handle all types of severe weather (e.g., thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes) and tsunamis. Information provided by StormReady and TsunamiReady includes targeted publications about severe weather safety for public and community leaders, related statistics, presentations, brochures, and community seminars to promote the importance of public readiness. Most of the remaining education activities are informal, such as the NOAA/American Meteorological Service WeatherFest, an interactive science festival for the public that includes a teacher training workshop. The NWS has supported formal education activities, such as the creation of the Xtreme Weather CD. In addition, approximately 2,400 school visits are made by staff of the field offices each year.
National Marine Fisheries Service
The National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for stewardship of the nation’s living marine resources and their habitats within the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone (waters 3 to 200 nautical miles offshore). Currently it has no education program as such, but rather a variety of education projects carried out by the six regional science centers. These
projects are highly decentralized and therefore are largely determined by regional centers, and many of them are informal and combine outreach and education. The most prominent ones are Teacher at Sea (started in 1990) and Teacher in the Air (started in 2004). Management of these two programs was transferred to the National Marine Fisheries Service during our review. The programs place teachers on a research vessel or plane, an activity that allows kindergarten through college-level teachers to work under the tutelage of scientists and crew aboard NOAA research survey ships or aircraft.
National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service
The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service provides the largest active archive of weather data in the country and includes the National Climatic Data Center, the National Oceanographic Data Center, and the National Coastal Data Development Center. The education efforts of this office are primarily electronic, including their collaborative efforts on the Coral Reef Conservation Program.
ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT
This report provides guidance to NOAA’s continued efforts to support environmental literacy of the nation and meet the workforce needs of the agency and the nation. As we conducted our review and prepared this report, five major guiding considerations emerged:
The importance of NOAA’s coordinating role in federal education efforts related to earth system science and stewardship and attention to defining this role in partnership with other federal science agencies.
The challenge NOAA faces in addressing both its needs as a science agency and national education and workforce needs, which is heightened by the urgency of calls for improving public literacy in science so that all citizens can participate in public discussions of science-related issues.
The urgency of significantly increasing diversity in the audiences reached by NOAA’s education programs and translating this into diversity of the workforce in NOAA and diversity in sciences and technology workforces in the nation in general.
The programmatic, management, and financial complexities inherent to developing a portfolio of education activities that balances the agency’s science, environmental, education, and stewardship goals.
The need for an approach to the education portfolio that emphasizes continual improvement and supports rigorous evaluation of NOAA education programs.
Following this introduction, Chapter 2 provides an overview of the national education landscape in which NOAA programs operate and outlines how NOAA can define its role in this context. Brief descriptions of the education efforts by other agencies are provided, and the assets and limitation that define NOAA’s role in education are described. The need for coordination and collaboration across federal and state agencies, institutes of higher education, K-12 education communities, and private-sector and nonprofit organizations is stressed.
Chapter 3 presents the NOAA education portfolio, critiques the education strategic plan, and outlines effective education practices for professional development for teachers, curriculum, instruction, informal education environments, promoting diversity, and addressing workforce needs. The strengths and weaknesses of the strategic education plan and effective education practices to support the agency’s education plan are described.
Chapter 4 evaluates the major NOAA education projects based on briefings from NOAA staff, administrative documents, annual reports, recent external evaluations, and research in education regarding effective practices. Each of the major education programs is described, and the evidence of their impact is highlighted. Cross-cutting issues, including portfolio balance, are discussed at the end of the chapter.
Chapter 5 critiques the framework NOAA has selected to guide future project evaluations and the previous project evaluations. The chapter provides guidance on implementing the education evaluation framework that NOAA has selected.
Chapter 6 presents the committee’s conclusions and recommendations, which specifically address the appropriate role of NOAA in education, the appropriate goals and outcomes of its education activities, effective and scalable evaluation strategies to assess the impact of education projects and the education portfolio, the appropriate balance of its education portfolio, and the impact of existing education activities.