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Graduate Defense: Danielle Marquette

March 15 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT

Square graphic which says, "Thesis Defense"

Thesis Information

Title: Integrating Climate and Wildfire Education in the Classroom: Development and Implementation of K-12 Place-based Wildfire Education Modules

Program: Master of Science in Geosciences

Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Pierce, Geosciences

Committee Members: Dr. Karen Viskupic, Geosciences; Dr. Megan Frary, Materials Science and Engineering; and Dr. Jennifer Marlon, Geosciences


In the United States, most parents would like their children to be educated about climate change, and most teachers support including climate change in K-12 curriculum. Yet climate change education is highly variable throughout K-12 schools in the United States; for example, New Jersey includes climate change in every subject at every grade level, while Pennsylvania does not include climate change at all. Anthropogenic climate change is only included in 29 of the individual states’ educational K-12 standards. This leaves many states and schools failing to properly educate students about the causes, consequences, solutions, and personal connections to climate change. Teachers’ top hesitations to teaching about climate change include a lack of content knowledge and resources, and the belief that climate change is not related to the subjects they teach. Making a direct connection to observable, local climate impacts is one of the most effective methods of teaching climate change. In recent decades in the western United States, warm, long and dry summers have contributed to large, devastating wildfires and longer fire seasons. We address these educational gaps by providing teachers with lessons that focus on one of the greatest climate change impacts felt in the western United States: wildfire. Wildfire education provides an opportunity to increase climate change literacy, environmental stewardship, and practical knowledge in students and their communities at increasing risk of wildfires.

Survey data from K-12 teachers, and Boise State University students reveals trends in background, understanding, and perceptions of climate change education and wildfire education. We find that K-12 teachers overwhelmingly support climate change curriculum, but often do not believe that climate change is related to the subjects they teach and do not feel prepared to teach the subject themselves. We find that only half of the college students surveyed received some climate education in their K-12 background. Less than a third of these students had some exposure to wildfire education, despite the majority of the students coming from states with high wildfire risk. We developed, designed and implemented a four-lesson wildfire unit to increase wildfire and climate literacy in both students and educators; the unit uses locations, ecosystems, and events familiar to residents of Idaho. We find that teachers report greater understanding of wildfire, increased confidence to teach and communicate about wildfire, and a high likelihood of using at least one of these lessons after they have observed the instruction of these lessons. Student assessments indicate that overall, these lessons increased student knowledge about wildfires, fire ecology, and drivers of fire behavior.