The Geo-Interactive Project

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Geo-Interactive Project seeks to broaden pipeline of students interested in the sciences through immersive, simulation-based learning experiences about climate and sustainabilty. Our educational approach combines interactive computer models with engaging role-play simulations, in which students learn for themselves by making decisions, and then finding out, through the computer models, how the Earth and energy systems are expected to respond to those decisions. In short, rather than being lectured to, students learn for themselves through a process that mimics scientific discovery. Further, our learning tools take students ‘under the hood,’ to understand important Earth system processes and to gain a deeper understanding of the modeling process. Our project focuses on a student target audience that is currently under-represented in STEM: economically disadvantaged, first-generation-in-college students in federally funded TRIO Student Support Services programs.
 World Climate simulation with TRIO staff in Charleston, West Virginia

The three key project  components include: (1) Develop and test a new Geo-Interactive curriculum that is centered on engaging simulation-based learning tools, uses an active learning approach to introduce climate and Earth system feedback processes, and makes direct connections to academic career opportunities; (2) Leverage the extensive nationwide network of 1,080 TRIO SSS programs that together reach >205,000 students to implement, propagate, and disseminate the Geo-Interactive curriculum to those currently underrepresented in STEM professions, careers or education pathways; and (3) Determine the impact of the Geo-Interactive curriculum on geoscience-related motivation, learning, and career interest.

The project brings together a team led by the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), Auburn University, and SageFox Consulting Group, with partners at Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan School of Management. One of the educational tools that it features is the World Climate simulation, which has already been shown to be an engaging and effective approach for teaching students and decision-makers at all levels about the complexities of addressing climate change on a global scale. World Climate has already been used in 74 countries with over 35,000 participants. Starting this fall, project director Juliette Rooney-Varga and a team of climate experts will bring the simulation to at least 3,000 college students across the country. Pilot schools are the University of Alabama Birmingham, the University of Maine Belfast, and University of Massachusetts Boston. The project is also partnering with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System), a program that includes more than 500 higher education institutions in the US with a shared goal of furthering sustainability education and research.
Please contact the Geo-Interactive Project team if you would like to learn more or bring these tools to your institution.