For now, the specs and potential blueprints are purposefully vague as education experts map out lesson plans. What we do know is that the lab will not be a sterile, hushed environment. “This isn’t going to be a museum setting with a series of installations,” says Aaron. “I expect the space to be flexible, and we’ll rely on the brilliance and flexibility of our educators to seamlessly blend the setting into their learning experiences.”
The creation of a climate science lab presents numerous challenges. Technology is a topic that is constantly discussed in the meetings about the lab, especially for an organization that prides itself on getting youth away from screens and out into nature. “Here’s the CO₂ going up, here’s greenhouse gas emissions going up — that’s a chart, that’s data, that’s probably a screen,” says Shane. “So what we have to do...and what great, smart people are working on, is coming up with location-specific lesson plans that involve observation and data capture, then the students bring what they’ve found back to the lab.”
The collective desire of the Golden Gate board and the educational consultants brought on to develop the curriculum is to steer away from a technologically dependent learning experience and more toward an experience augmented by the thoughtful use of technology. “Technology has to deepen their understanding,” says Aaron. “It can’t be something they could just get on a laptop at home.” Part of the necessity of incorporating technology comes from the fact that climate change is difficult to witness at a single moment in time. Unlike many of the lessons in NatureBridge’s programs, there is little that can be gleaned from pure observation in the absence of a broader climate change science context.
The problem of observing climate change is what led the National Park Service to build the wayside installation at Crissy Field. That same observation problem serves as inspiration for NatureBridge’s Climate Science Lab to be an integrative, experiential hub that creates new ways for its students to visualize and think about climate change.
“I think there are actually so many opportunities and ways to connect observed data points to a larger story,” says Aaron. “Flowers blooming earlier, marine animals creeping up the coast as waters warm, getting kids to think about whether the bridge they just crossed will be underwater in 30 years — the lab will bolster all of that learning.”
The final problem with creating a lab dedicated to the science of climate change?
“It can be a dark topic,” laughs Shane. “You don’t want kids walking away feeling like there’s this incredible challenge that we can’t fix.” “We want the lab to be a place where kids see themselves as scientists, asking questions and exploring solutions that they can design to slow the impact and mitigate the effects of climate change,” says Aaron. “We want them to go home feeling empowered and inspired.”