Thursday, February 1, 2018

For Immediate Release

Educators Examine Extreme Events & Climate Change
Concepts During MITS January 2018
Professional Development Seminar

Worcester, MA — On Wednesday, January 24th, 2018, over fifty Massachusetts educators met at Clark University for a Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS) Professional Development Seminar on the topics of extreme weather events and climate change. Led by presenters Dr. Ellen Douglas (Associate Professor of Hydrology at the UMass Boston School for the Environment) and Dr. Jeremy Shakun (Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth & Environmental Science at Boston College), educators from informal education institutions and in-service teachers collaboratively evaluated real-world evidence backing the data-driven claim of global climate change and assessed the role of climate change in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

About the Sessions

In morning session with Dr. Douglas, educators reviewed long term weather data (temperature, carbon dioxide levels, precipitation levels, storm frequency/intensity) from sources like NASA and NOAA and explored the link between extreme events and global warming. Educators were introduced to the Boston Climate Action Plan, an outline of proactive measures used for local policy making. Coupling historic weather data with their knowledge of climate change, participants discussed possible causes of extreme weather events and why they will most likely increase as global temperatures rise.

During the afternoon session, educators delved deeper into the evidence supporting climate change claims with Dr. Shakun. Working in small groups, participants compared real-world data by modeling year-to-year weather variations. They examined how small segments of data can lead to misconceptions of climate change, and analyzed the amount of data and timescales required to validate scientific claims. Together, educators calculated the likelihood of extreme weather events as the climate warms, and considered ways to incorporate more climate change lessons into their current programs and exhibits at their institutions.

About the Presenters

Dr. Douglas researches the impacts of climate change on New England hydrology. Her work involves coastal community flood-risk assessment, methods of improving sustainable water resource management, and river restoration monitoring. She has authored or co-authored 29 peer-reviewed publications, four book chapters, and is a contributing author for the 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report. Dr. Douglas is also a co-author of the reports outlining the impacts of climate change on Boston, “Climate Ready Boston: Results of the Boston Research Advisory Group” and “Preparing for the Rising Tide”.

Dr. Shakun is a paleoclimatologist who researches the patterns and causes of climate change over recent millennia to the Ice Ages of the past few millions of years using glacier deposits, ocean sediments, and cave stalagmites. His articles on the topic, “A Reconstruction of Global and Regional Temperature for the Last 11,300 Years” and “Global Warming Preceded by Increasing Carbon Dioxide Concentrations During the Last Deglaciation”, have been published in the leading journals (Nature, Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Dr. Shakun has shared his insights about climate change with numerous media outlets (BBC, NPR, U.S. News & World Report, Associated Press, New York Times, MSNBC, Christian Science Monitor and Scientific American, and WBZ News Radio). Though the presenters spoke separately, their messages tied together seamlessly.

By participating in this MITS Professional Development Seminar series, educators gain insight on ways to use up-to-date STEM content to better implement the Science and Engineering Practices and link their programs to the MA 2016 revised Science and Engineering/Technology Curriculum Frameworks. Through shared experiences, participants build a network of STEM professionals while they focus on turning real-life science into inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on lessons. The series continues on February 14th with “Sharing Science: Connecting Scientists and Engineers with the Public”.


The Museum Institute for Teaching Science specializes in providing hands-on, minds-on, inquiry-based STEM professional development for formal and informal educators.  For more information, visit or call 617-328-1515.