Summer Institute on Minnesota’s Changing Climate

Water and ecosystem quality in the Mississippi River watershed was the theme of the 2013 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education, Aug 6-7. Our training set out to explore ways we and our students can observe real, local changes to the environment, due to climate change right in Fort Snelling State Park (within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area).

The Summer Institute Included:

  • An overview (and complimentary copy) of our award-winning “Minnesota’s Changing Climate” curriculum
  • Guest speakers and experts, such as: Lark Weller, Lyndon Torstenson, Mick Wirtz, Pete Cleary, Krista Jensen, and the folks at Wilderness Inquiry
  • A 4-hour paddling excursion on the Mississippi River with field activities
  • Delicious meals, snacks and coffee from area businesses: Peace Coffee, Birchwood Catering, Turtle Bread, and many more (see complete list below)
  • A journal for each participant (1.4MB PDF) to record and reflect throughout the Institute

Day 1: August 6th

Educators were greeted this morning with a brief introduction and ice-breaker activities that emphasized curriculum content. After only a short time indoors, all walked to the Fort Snelling State Park beach to participate in training activities on weather and climate data collection and phenology nature observations.

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(Left) The biome “meet and greet” game gets educators mixing before (Right) striking off into the woods for morning activities.

At lunch we heard from Mississippi watershed expert Lark Weller on the state of the river and the potential future degradation due to climate change. Later that day (after sampling the burrito bar and enjoying some warm cookies, purchased by the partner of one participant), all educators dug into the practice of keeping a nature notebook, combining literacy and science. The day concluded with some further study of climate science and an immersive activity in nature and science journaling with Mick Wirtz.

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(Left) Educators did weather and climate data collection and (Right) all sessions included reflection questions and worksheet examples in the Minnesota’s Changing Climate journal (provided).

Day 2: August 7th

Before leaving on our Mississippi River canoe trip with Wilderness Inquiry, everyone was sure to grab some complimentary Peace Coffee, yogurt, granola, fruit and pastries for the trip. A complete breakfast paid off later on that day when paddling and doing field science at the “Bdote” (a sacred site unparalleled in Dakota history located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers).

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(Left) Leslie and Sharon were among the several teachers who attended both of our Institutes this summer (they are also champion turbidity testers). (Right) Paddling synchronized (almost) like professionals (or close) with Wilderness Inquiry.

Back on land, we were treated to the stories of Cole Norgarrden and Pete Cleary, sharing about a life of environmental awareness and activism and how to teach in the outdoors respectively.

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(Clockwise from top left) Teachers discussing the complexities of climate science. (Top right) Cole Norgarrden, former chair of YEA!MN. (Bottom right and left) Journaling and reflection exercises were an important part of our training, thanks in part to Mick Wirtz of Saint Paul Public Schools (not pictured).

See more of our favorite photos from the event on Facebook!

Institute Agenda

Tuesday, August 6th

  • 8:00 AM  Breakfast, Check-in
  • 8:30 AM  Introduction to Institute and Fort Snelling State Park with Kristen Poppleton (Presentation PDF, 17.4 MB)
  • 9:40 Breakout Sessions (divided by grade level taught): “Weather, Climate and the Mississippi River” with John Smith and Lyndon Torstenson, “Phenology and Climate Change” with Kristen Poppleton and Krista Jensen.
  • 12:00 PM  Lunch Keynote: “Climate Change and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area” with Lark Weller (Presentation PDF, 26.55 MB)
  • 1:00 PM Intro to Minnesota’s Changing Climate curriculum with Kristen Poppleton (Presentation PDF, 10 MB)
  • 1:30 PM Breakout Sessions (divided by grade level taught): “Journaling and literacy in science” with Mick Wirtz and “Make Images of Climate Science” with Kristen Poppleton (Presentation PDF, 18.3 MB)
  • 3:30 PM Lesson 5 of Minnesota’s Changing Climate curriculum: “What Does the Data Show?” with Kristen Poppleton (Presentation PDF, 83 KB)
  • 4:20 PM First Day Reflections
  • 4:40 PM Service Project: Invasive Species Removal

Wednesday, August 7th

  • 8:00 AM Breakfast
  • 8:30 AM  Intro to Wilderness Inquiry and Canoe Safety
  • 10:00 AM  Stop at the Bdote: Transect and water quality activities
  • 12:00 PM  Lunch
  • 1:00 PM  Take Your Students Outside with Pete Cleary (Presentation PDF, 18.2 MB)
  • 1:40 PM Youth in Action: “From Awareness to Activism” with Cole Norgarrden
  • 2:15 PM Curriculum Planning Time
  • 3:15 PM Evaluation and Final Reflection
  • 4:00 PM Departure

Further Resources:

Institute Resources (Link): A complete bibliography of all the books recommended by WSF staff related to climate change. Includes many titles appropriate for young readers.

Thank you to our partners:

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And Thank you to the following food donors:

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