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Root for Innovation: Bridging Climate Science and K-12 Education in Hawai‘i

March 18, 2024

· 4 min read
The Elemental Team

Root for Innovation is a dynamic program aimed at embedding climate change education into K-12 curricula in Hawai’i. This initiative is a collaborative effort between Elemental Excelerator and SubjectToClimate, focusing on equipping teachers with the tools to integrate climate science and environmental justice into their curriculum.

Through a summer training program, educators learn to develop Hawai’i-centric, scientifically credible lesson plans that seamlessly fit into existing curricula. Root for Innovation not only prepares students to understand and tackle climate change but also positions Hawai’i as a leader in proactive climate education for the next generation.

Root for Innovation is a part of Elemental’s Career Pathways work to embed equity at the core of climate solutions by launching and inspiring 10,000 climate careers. This teacher fellowship furthers our mission by engaging with and inspiring action among students and educators across the state of Hawai’i. Through curriculum we plant the seed of climate work as a viable career pathway, and through the teacher fellowship we invest in professional development and teacher training related to climate.

Why It Matters

Root for Innovation empowers the next generation with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate and mitigate the impacts of climate change, an issue that transcends disciplinary boundaries. By embedding climate change education from an early age, students develop a deep understanding of the causes and effects of climate change, as well as the social, economic and environmental interconnections that underpin this global challenge.

Climate change education in K-12 schools also cultivates a culture of innovation and problem-solving. As students learn about renewable energy, climate technologies and community impact, they are inspired to explore solutions and contribute to a more sustainable future for all people. This educational approach aligns with the growing demand for a green workforce, positioning students to thrive in the rapidly evolving job market.

By integrating climate change into all subjects and grade levels, Root for Innovation ensures that all students, regardless of their future career paths, can become environmentally literate citizens capable of making positive contributions to their communities and the planet.

Success Stories

Ten Hawai’i educators participated in the 2023 Climate Champion Teacher Fellowship program, which blended asynchronous online work with in-person training. Through this partnership, Elemental Excelerator and SubjectToClimate produced 31 Hawai’i-centric lesson plans that are both science-based and can be easily integrated into existing curriculum. Because of their experience in the Climate Champion Teacher Fellowship our 2023 Teacher Fellows have been quick to integrate climate change into their curriculums and are well positioned to implement these lesson plans within their schools with little to no internal guidance.

“In most districts, learning about climate change is not required; especially not learning about the ways it disproportionately impacts disenfranchised communities,” said Olivia Dulany, former Root for Innovation teacher fellow. “This work is impactful because it represents an effort to increase access to education about things that we don’t traditionally teach in our nation’s public schools.”

Based on survey data of the educator participants in Climate Champion Teacher Fellowship, SubjectToClimate found that:

  • 100% of respondents indicated that they feel capable of incorporating climate change into their curricula more frequently
  • When asked to estimate how many lessons they plan to teach about climate change, 7 out of 9 teachers expressed a desire to teach at least four more lessons than the quantity they indicated on the pre-survey
  • Teachers had a better grasp on the science behind climate change
  • Teachers expressed more clarity about the legitimacy of climate change, with nearly all recognizing the valid scientific evidence that exists in support of the phenomenon in the post-survey

Read the full Hawai’i Case Study by SubjectToClimate.

About the Program

Elemental Excelerator and SubjectToClimate seek applicants for their second annual “Root for Innovation” Climate Champion Teacher Fellowship. The program provides a basis for Hawai’i based K-12 educators of all subjects to feel comfortable integrating climate change into their everyday lessons.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Deliver at least three exemplar climate change lessons on the SubjectToClimate lesson portal that align with the strategic goals of the Hawai’i’s Department of Education
  • Complete three asynchronous teacher training courses in climate change education
    • Level 0: Understanding Climate Change (3-4 hours)
    • Level 1: Teaching About Climate Change (4-5 hours)
    • Level 2: Creating Lessons About Climate Change (8 hours)
  • Attend four synchronous collaborative training workshops and at least 4 office hours during the Fellowship program period June 10 – July 19, 2024
  • Work individually and collaboratively to iterate on lesson plans
  • Attend and present at the Teacher Fellow Virtual Showcase
  • Submit a program evaluation and two progress reports through the 2024-2025 school year

How to Get Involved

Interested Teacher Fellow applicants can apply online. Deadline to apply is April 26, 2024.