Community College Educators Meet to Address Teaching about Global Climate Change and Environmental Challenges

By: David J. Smith, April 25, 2016

Program participants visiting the World Wildlife Fund Headquarters in Washington, DC

Community college educators met at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) April 21-23, 2016 to consider ways of teaching about global climate change and environmental issues.  The program, “Global Climate Change and Environmental Challenges: Approaches to Teaching in Community Colleges,” was part of the professional development series

Educators at the program

offered by the Institute for Public Service at NOVA. Attending the program were 15 educators representing NOVA, County College of Morris, Anne Arundel Community College, Sinclair Community College, College of Southern Maryland, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Moraine Valley Community College, as well as international faculty from Albania and the Democratic Republic of Congo participating in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program.

Ed Maibach from George Mason U.

Thursday’s program (April 21) started with a presentation by Edward Mailbach, MPH, PhD, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, who explored the ways in which climate change is perceived by Americans, as well as strategies for increasing overall knowledge.  Kevin Coyle, JD, of  the National Wildlife Federation spoke during lunch and looked at careers in the field, particularly focusing on community college students through its Greenforce Initiative.  Virginia Burkett, PhD, of the U.S. Geological Survey

National Wildlife Federation’s Kevin Coyle

followed and examined the science behind global climate change.  The day ended with Judy Braus of the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). She shared with the group about the work of NAAEE as well as engaged them in several experiential activities to help demonstrate ways in which environmental education can be taught. An important resource of NAAEE is its eePro which is an online hub for professional development and learning in the field.

The second day of the program – Earth Day –  Friday (April 22) was a field day, with the group visiting the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). USGBC, best know for its LEED certification of buildings,  broadly advances sustainability education and awareness.  Its Center for Green Schools advances education, infrastructure, and careers in the green trades.  USGBC’s Introduction to LEED Lab can be used in higher education.  The group was hosted by Jaime Van Mourik and Ryan Snow.

Virginia Burkett from the USGS


Judy Braus from NAAEE

This was followed by a trip to WWF.  There, Shaun Martin discussed with the group the role that the World Wildlife Fund plays in advancing global climate change awareness, with a particular emphasis on adaptation.  A number of resources for educators can be found at the WWF website.

Jaime Van Mourik from USGBC


Tour of USGBC with Ryan Snow


Shaun Martin at WWF


The final day of the program, Saturday (April 23) was held at NOVA.  Presenters provided a range of perspectives looking at climate change, the impact of chemicals on the environment and the personal health, peace ecology, and the impact of environmental change in Africa.

Karin Russ from the University of Maryland

Karin Russ, MS, RN from the University of Maryland examined the impact of chemicals on health and wellness, as well as approaches that students can use in advocating for change.  She works with The Collaborative on Health and the Environment.  She was followed by Todd Johnson,  a forestry and climate advisor with the U.S. Agency for International Development, who presented on how international agreements such as the Paris Agreement can be successful in the “global commons.”  Randall Amster, JD,

Todd Johnson from USAID 

PhD, from Georgetown University’s Program on Justice and Peace explored the emerging field of peace ecology, which is advancing peace-oriented strategies in dealing with global challenges.  He is the author of Peace Ecology (Paradigm/Routledge, 2015).  He was followed by Yohannes Woldemariam, PhD, from the University of Colorado, Denver, who examined the impact of climate change on African countries. He writes in Huffington Post on a range of international issues including climate change.  As an ending activity, the participants considered ways in which they can advance new approaches with their students to build awareness of global climate change and environmental issues.

Yohannes Woldermarian from University of Denver

The next community college faculty program to be offered in this series will be the 4th Annual National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar “Teaching About Global Conflict and Peacebuilding” to be held October 21-24, 2016 at Northern Virginia Community College. Registration is now open.  For more information about the programs of the Institute for Public Service contact Linda Campos at

Georgtown U.’s Randall Amster
Program participants on the last day

Published by David J. Smith

I am a career coach, consultant, and head of a not for profit - the Forage Center - that offers humanitarian education training. I also teach at George Mason University and Drexel University. A one time lawyer, I spent many years teaching in a community college where I was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar teaching in Estonia. I'm the author of Peace Jobs: A Student's Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (IAP 2016). I've been married to my best friend for over 31 years and we have two well adjusted adult children who teach me something new everyday. I live in Rockville, Maryland.

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