NOAA Education Programs: Preparing America’s Future Leaders

from Wildlife Promise

Earlier today, fellow NWF colleagues and I headed to an education briefing at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.  Kevin Coyle was a speaker at the event, which focused on the role that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education plays in preparing the next generation of workers to keep America competitive.

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The lunchtime briefing room was packed with Senate staff eager to learn more about how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) education programs play an intrinsic part in understanding the “Four Es” of 21st century global competitiveness: Environment, Economy, Energy and Education.   The event was moderated by Campaign for Environmental Literacy director Jim Elder.

Since the agency was created in 1970, NOAA has supported education projects that cover topics related to ocean, atmospheric, climate, and environmental sciences.

While most job titles in this century will remain the same, the skill sets and thinking required to be successful will be different.  To be successful, the United States will need a broad base of workers who understand the deep connections between environmental stewardship and economic development.

How the United States can lead in the 21st Century

The global leaders of the 21st century will be those countries that put the most investment in environmental innovation and sustainable energy, and currently the United States lags behind.  The steps that we take in the next few years regarding environmental education will decide our place in the global economy.

Our education systems must provide a comprehensive environmental knowledge base, especially in relevant sciences, in order to foster the innovation and discoveries needed to maintain our competitiveness in an increasingly challenging global economy.

In addition to Kevin and Jim, the following leaders attended today’s briefing:

- Sharon Walker, Director of Education and Outreach, Institute for Marine Mammal Studies-Center for Marine Education and Research, Gulfport, MS;
- Martin Storksdieck, Director, and Michael Feder, Senior Program Officer, Board of Science Education, National Research Council; and
- Louisa Koch, Director of Education, NOAA

Read National Wildlife Federation’s 2010 Back to School: Back Outside report to learn about the impact of outdoor and environmental education, outdoor time and nature study on student motivation, effectiveness at learning, classroom behavior, focus and standardized test scores.