The initiative, called “Resilient Schools Consortium: Connecting Schools to Coastal Communities,” will work with 200 students and 10 teachers from eight public schools in New York City.
Throughout the program, students will study a shoreline in Coney Island to increase their awareness of future climate impacts, as well as develop strategies for building climate resilience in response to sea level rise.
“Inspiring today’s youth to be tomorrow’s wildlife champions is crucial if we are serious about protecting and restoring the natural world,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of NWF. “In order to do this, it is vital to instill a connection to the outdoors from an early age by promoting science-based learning and investing in environmental education.”
Emily Fano, NWF’s senior education manager, noted that resilience education programs are urgently needed, especially at a time when extreme weather events, hurricanes and wildfires are “ravaging communities” and threatening already vulnerable populations.
“Climate change education is critical to help future generations understand and adapt to a rapidly changing world,” she said.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, students will take field trips to local beaches with local residents and community organizations to learn about the natural and built solutions being used or considered along the city’s shoreline.
They will also participate in dune plantings, community engagement events and public art installations, which educators said will help them gain real-world knowledge and experience in climate adaptation techniques.
One of the advisors to the program will be Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a noted psychiatrist and expert on the psychological impacts of the climate crisis on young people.
Others groups like the Department of Education, New York Seat Grant, the American Littoral Society and Knology and the Coney Island Beautification Project will serve as partners.
In a statement, Pamela Pettyjohn, president and founder of the Coney Island Beautification Project, said she is pleased to be partnering with the NWF on the program.
She noted that since Superstorm Sandy devastated the community in 2012, the beautification project has encouraged community engagement and promoted the environmental improvement and resiliency of the area.
“We will serve as connectors to local residents and NWF while helping to increase participation in decision-making around resiliency plans that affect our community,” Pettyjohn said.
“There is an urgent need for New York City students to become literate about climate change and extreme weather events, to communicate this information to others and learn how to create resilient societies,” added Greg Borman, director of science in the DOE’s Department of STEM. “This project will continue to fulfill that need.”