- Author: Gregory Ira
Over 3,000 corpsmembers graduate from the California Conservation Corps (CCC) every year. Some jump right into the workforce, but many enroll in college courses or seek additional training and professional development.
The California Naturalist course is a perfect opportunity for corpsmembers to continue their learning. Like the CCC, the California Naturalist program emphasizes experiential learning with lots of hands-on and field based activities. The California Naturalist Certification is increasingly recognized as an asset for job-seekers in environmental education and natural resource management fields. In addition, corpsmembers can access four general education credits from UC-Davis Extension (now Continuing and Professional Education) if they are interested in furthering their studies.
The California Naturalist program was recently awarded a UC ANR Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) grant that will help us tailor certain aspects of the California Naturalist course to the needs of corpsmembers. A pilot course hosted by UC ANR's Hopland Research and Extension Center will serve corpsmembers based at the CCC residential camp in Ukiah. Three other residential camp representatives will also participate with the expectation of replicating the course in other regions of the state in subsequent years.
With over 45 California Naturalist partners around the state, and new partners joining every year, corpsmembers will likely find a course within an hour of their current residence. We hope all our California Naturalist partners will unlock this new opportunity for young corpsmembers. We think it is a perfect match that bodes well for the future stewardship of California's natural resources.
- Author: Eliot Freutel
September marks a pivotal moment in climate change conversation and action and this week, September 20-27, is Climate Week - a time where people around the world are raising their voices to talk about what climate change means to them.
The UN Global Climate Action Summit will be held in New York Sept. 23rd for international climate negotiators to discuss their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in a way that will help make the fight against climate change a reality. A recent article from the UC Newsroom by Carolyn McMillan details how the “University of California has joined forces with more than 7,000 colleges and universities around the globe to declare a climate emergency and commit to urgent action to address the crisis.” This agreement prioritizes climate related research within the UC system as well as expanded education and outreach regarding climate resilience and sustainability. This announcement is tailed by student protests to bring awareness to climate change and the University of California divestment of all funds from fossil fuels, setting an example for tackling climate change head-on and aligning your money with your values.
With every new piece of scientific evidence, the ability to remain hopeful, feel positive about our ability to address the situation, and have confidence in our capacity to engage constructively becomes a growing challenge. But there is power within all of us to tackle some of the immediate effects of climate change. The Climate Stewards Initiative (CSI) is a new certification program that will be offered through the UC California Naturalist program that “prepares individuals to communicate and engage in local solutions to advance community and ecosystem resilience.”By learning together about the causes of climate change, and actionable measures we can take to curb it, we can collectively reduce our impact and minimize the impact of changes already taking place. For people already doing these things themselves, they will learn methods and skills to communicate and work with others as to how climate change will affect them and, in the process, help them discover their own roles in the fight against climate change.
The Climate Stewards Initiative will be the first certification program of its kind in California and will provide participants with the tools they need to have an impact in their homes, communities, across the state and beyond. More than just a one-time course about climate change, Climate Stewards, is an ongoing social learning community that provides a transition from a sense of helplessness to a sense of empowerment. As community members, our efforts are multiplied when we work together toward share goals. As we band together to identify our strongest impact and act on it, we dive deep into a study on what climate resilience means to us on a personal level and help others discover answers to the same question; “what makes us resilient?” We become empowered to make changes at home, have a meaningful conversation with friends, families and neighbors, participate in local planning efforts, and advocate for environmental justice. Climate Stewards builds on the success of the UC California Naturalist program which a collective impact network designed to promote stewardship of California's natural resources through education and service. Check out the Climate Stewards webpage for more information.
- Author: Sarah Angulo
The days grow shorter and the temperatures are gradually getting cooler – fall is approaching, and that means it's time for school to start! Teachers are getting their classrooms ready and students are getting fresh supplies to head back to school. For our fall California Naturalist courses, heading into the classroom has a whole different meaning.
The classroom sessions are just a piece of the whole learning experience in a UC California Naturalist course. Take it from this West Valley College certified Naturalist, who explained, “The content presented in class before the field trip helped students understand what they were getting ready to study during our week long trip. The content during the trip helped us expand on the foundation we were left with before the trip. Interacting with others helped me out by talking to people who have visited the areas that we were in before the trip.”
The combination of classroom lectures, field trips, volunteer projects, class citizen science projects, use of iNaturalist, and interacting with guest speakers and fellow students is a unique learning experience that many naturalists describe as “transformational.” This fall, you can join the community of 4,000 people across the state who have become certified naturalists. With California's wonderful diversity in terms of both its nature and its people, there's a course that's right for everyone. We have courses taking place in the Lake Tahoe Basin, along the banks of the American River, up in the redwood forest, amidst the Coast Range's golden hills, adjacent to a National Seashore, in the coastal chaparral, right in the middle of urban space, and more! Find a fall course near you here.
Every teacher undergoes training before entering the indoor or outdoor classroom, and our California Naturalist instructors are no exception. This fall, instructors from potential new course locations have an opportunity to sign up for our instructor training. Taking place at Elkus Ranch November 13 & 14, this two day training includes a special opportunity for both new and continuing instructors.
November 13 is an introduction for organizations who have completed a partner interest form and have initiated plans together with the California Naturalist Program Team to offer the course to their community, volunteers, or staff. The workshop is one required step in the application process to partner with the program. Additional instructor team members are welcome to attend, as well as current instructors who have not undergone the instructor training in 3 or more years to receive updated information on administrative processes.
November 14 is a UCANR Fire Education Workshop- an advanced training professional development opportunity specifically for Project Learning Tree (PLT) instructors working with 4-H or CalNat to enhance their content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and use of technology in the design and delivery of fire education programs in California. The workshop will expose participants to all three elements of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge and include opening and closing presentations providing additional context to the challenges of fire education in California and the role that PLT, 4-H, and the California Naturalist Program play in addressing them. The overarching goal of the workshop is to enhance the capacity of the instructors to deliver high quality programming to their respective audiences.
This training is geared for existing PLT instructors (educators and facilitators) from the California Naturalist program and 4-H program who have or plan to integrate a PLT workshop into their program, CalNat instructors attending the ongoing Northern California Instructor Training, and other interested 4-H participants. Those not currently affiliated with the PLT, CalNat, or 4-H may be considered if space is available.
Collective impact isn't new, but the concept of collaboration by organizations from different sectors around with a common goal to solve or address a complex social or environmental problem has gained traction since it was articulated in 2011 by a team at the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The UC California Naturalist program network is an example of a collective impact. Since its inception, it has multiplied the effort of Brenda Kyle and others like her. To date, 56 different organizations from around the state have engaged over 80 instructors, who have trained 3,720 participants just like Brenda. Certified naturalists have gone on to make over 73,000 educational contacts and provide over 168,000 hours of volunteer service worth an estimated $4.3 Million to the state of California. These are the outputs of a diverse array of individuals from across the state whose one commonality is a pin and certificate that says, California Naturalist.
While the California Naturalist network addresses the five conditions originally outlined for collective impact (i.e., a common agenda, shared measurement, reinforcing activities, continuous communication and backbone support), a new opportunity has emerged that will further strengthen our work. Our new Climate Stewards course is helping us more systematically and intentionally adapt to new priorities, better connect to those with lived experiences, and strengthen the engagement of our partners. The course itself is a reflection of the growing demand for the same research-based approaches to education and service that characterizes the original California Naturalist course. Our recent Climate Stewards Initiative needs assessment reached over 500 individuals helping us better address the needs of those individuals in communities across the state who will participate in the course. Finally, modifications to our Program Advisory Committee have increased the voice and engagement of our external partners and reaffirmed our role as a backbone organization for the network. In short, the momentum behind the new Climate Stewards course is helping to elevate and catalyze the larger California Naturalist collective impact network of which it is a part.
Collective impact is both a process and a result. The collaborative structures create a framework for coordination, and the aggregated numbers help describe the scale of our impact. But the rich colors, shapes, and details of collective impact come from the stories of naturalists like Brenda Kyle. These stories are now being captured and shared in an online Story Map that highlights the impact of California Naturalists from around the state. We hope you'll also want to share your story and help us complete the mosaic of environmental stewardship that is growing around the state and essential to maintaining a thriving, sustainable, and resilient place that many of us call home.
- Author: Olivia Cooper
Text and image by guest blogger Olivia Cooper. Olivia is an undergraduate at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She worked with former California Naturalist founding director Dr. Adina Merenlender on the research presented in this blog post.
In order to probe this question, UC California Naturalist founding director, Adina Merenlender, and I embarked on an independent research project, focusing on what makes up climate literacy, according to a sample of higher education climate change syllabi. A syllabus (or its plural, syllabi) is a document shared with students enrolled in a class. It provides an outline of course content, expectations, and learning objectives. My primary job was to find, analyze, and interpret climate change syllabi content available online. I searched the internet for public access syllabi, collected, cleaned, and sorted through data, the titles and descriptions that comprise climate change education. Next, I tossed the individual words together, simmering down the mixture with coded categories, baking at 350º for a few weeks of analysis, all to produce a collection of pie charts and hierarchical clusters rich with information about the components of climate change education.
Diving into the data, we found a clear emphasis on biogeophysical sciences, strength in social sciences and consequences, and some gaps in climate change communication strategies. We also noted a few gaps in the finer categories of climate literacy. While the hard sciences dominated the syllabi, terms related to conservation, biodiversity, and non-human species or systems were relatively rare. Place-based solutions terms were also not well represented in the syllabi, even though relevance to local context would be more relatable and foster dialog among the students, and is a key strategy to increase climate science literacy. Another notable gap was next steps--mitigation, adaptation, and communication terms were not consistently included in the syllabi.
Gaps like those we found in our sample of syllabi illustrate the increased need to address the interdisciplinary nature of climate literacy. For example, we know that focusing on tangible solutions and highlighting success stories increases motivation, efficacy, and persistence in utilizing new knowledge pertaining to climate change, as this encourages environmental stewardship through feelings of connection and attachment to place. It is insufficient to understand only the geology, biology, chemistry, and physics of climate change, although these areas are essential. Beyond understanding the biogeophysical sciences and social sciences at play, it is important to address how we directly interact with and are affected by this global change—what traumas are being faced by different groups, how can we mitigate and adapt to these changes, and how can we act? Even further, how do we include others in this network of climate literate people, and how can we communicate our climate literacy responsibly and effectively? Overall, we found the curricula to be very strong regarding both the biogeophysical and social mechanisms and consequences of climate change, and to generally cover potential solutions to climate change. It may benefit by including more discussion on how to understand rhetorical strategies to effectively communicate and process this global crisis.
To read the full publication, please see Cooper O, Keeley A,Merenlender A. Curriculum gaps for adult climate literacy. Conservation Science and Practice. 2019; e102.
The Climate Stewards Initiative is currently conducting a needs assessment to inform content creation for the course curriculum. If you would like to contribute to the formation of this new course, please follow this link.
If you have questions about the UC Climate Stewards Initiative, please contact Sarah-Mae Nelson (408) 482-4633; firstname.lastname@example.org