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Planet Stewards


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Digital Badges Collaborator Proposal


 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a bureau of the United States Department of Commerce with a vision “to understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation’s economic, social, and environmental needs.”  As the Nation’s leading oceanic and atmospheric science and service agency, NOAA has a responsibility to coordinate and collaborate within the ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, weather, and climate science and education communities.

 NOAA’s education mission is to “advance environmental literacy and promote a diverse workforce in ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, weather, and climate sciences, encouraging stewardship and increasing informed decision making for the Nation.”  An active and well-coordinated NOAA education community conducts a variety of educational activities and provides leadership across the federal government in strengthening ocean, climate, and atmospheric science education.

 The foundation for NOAA’s educational content is based on the agency’s scientific work. Often referred to as NOAA sciences, the core of this work is the investigation of patterns, features, and interactions of Earth’s ocean, coasts, Great Lakes, weather, and climate. The study of these physical systems requires a broad array of scientific disciplines, technology, mathematics, and engineering. Observing coral reef health, for example, is a lesson involving global climate, hydrology, land use planning, oceanography, fisheries management, and marine economics. Likewise, projecting future climate is a product of computer science, statistics, sociology, meteorology, climatology, and other sciences. Infusing the findings and research processes of this work into education, and training new generations of scientists to continue the work, are central to the NOAA education mission.

 An environmentally literate public is critical to achieving NOAA’s mission goals of managing coastal and marine resources, providing for society’s needs for weather and water information, and enhancing society’s ability to plan and respond to climate variability. Global climate change, rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, collapsing fisheries, and habitat losses are real threats to the American economy and way of life.  An educated public is needed to serve as stewards of the natural environment, take appropriate action in the case of severe weather, and participate in the national debate on complex issues such as climate change. NOAA cannot manage these issues alone; the public must be actively involved in stewardship of these shared resources. NOAA embraces effective educational methods that promote stewardship and environmental problem-solving efforts; strategies that are well-suited to the Digital Badges initiative. Building public understanding and appreciation of the interconnectedness of people and the environment is a critical part of the development of stewardship responsibilities.

 Educational efforts at NOAA are managed and delivered through a structure of programs and projects distributed throughout the agency. Several programs, such as the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Estuarine Research Reserve System, National Sea Grant College Program, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program, have existing, long-standing mandates for education. To assist in the coordination of these diverse entities, the agency established the NOAA Education Council. The Council serves as a forum for the NOAA education community and works to leverage existing capabilities within the corporate infrastructure to provide a comprehensive and targeted education program.

NOAA is interested in working alongside a partner in the design, development and implementation of a digital badge infrastructure for educators and for students of multiple ages. NOAA’s vast data resources and educational materials will be useful to other entities developing badges for audiences of many ages and levels of knowledge.  Some of these resources are listed below.

 In addition, a Planet Stewards badge would provide an opportunity focused on learning, online and local investigations, and community action planning and implementation. Bringing together digital resources in a wide variety of environmental issues, it would allow for the customizing of a project to fit interests and local needs of individuals or collaborative groups. Due to the wide breadth of content and ongoing programs available for inclusion it would be possible to design a robust badge for students in grades 4-12 and adults, especially educators. Learners would be challenged to learn about and document a local environmental issue through photography, video, storytelling, interviews, and data-gathering with the help of NOAA resources and then develop a plan of action that could be accomplished by an individual or a collaborative group. 

 Technical Considerations

 NOAA does not have an open badge system but would be happy to join other federal agencies who are engaged with Mozilla to investigate the development of a system.  NOAA has an active Facebook and Twitter presence and is in the process of launching an iTunes University system.   Flash-based games can be found at our portal site,  NOAA will also require that materials developed be Section 508 compliant (Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, http:// with considerations for privacy and age restriction issues.

 Branding Considerations

The use of the NOAA insignia in the actual badge will need to be approved but digital resources are considered in the public domain.

 Learning Content

 NOAA’s vast infrastructure for monitoring Earth’s systems and modeling future trends uniquely position the agency to provide citizens with the most current information available on the ocean, weather, and climate. To provide for the lifelong learner, NOAA’s comprehensive education programs can provide a critical connection between the agency and the learning public.  Citizen science networks, comprised of volunteers who often have limited scientific training, assist NOAA in a variety of settings. These groups monitor coral reef health, collect climate and local weather information, assist with maritime archaeology, and conduct estuarine habitat studies, to cite a few examples.

 NOAA science provides unique opportunities for students of all ages to learn more about potential career paths. Vehicles for exploration on Earth require operators, technicians, and engineers with specialized knowledge to chart the ocean floor, monitor ocean currents, investigate fish populations, or explore new habitats. Computers and information technology are integral to gathering, processing, interpreting, and publishing data on the ocean and atmosphere. Public safety, a global concern, is strongly supported by the scientific research and environmental monitoring conducted by NOAA. Meteorology, hydrology, remote sensing, statistical modeling, satellite communications, and information technology allow for the science of weather events, water supply, river level, and flood forecasts, climate projections, and tsunami warnings to be integrated into actions that save lives, protect property, and enhance the economy.

 Protecting, restoring, and managing coastal and ocean resources require scientific investigations to understand the complex processes at work in these natural systems. Responding to the specific demands of air, sea, and surface transportation with consistent, timely, and accurate science information aids in safe, efficient, and environmentally-sound transportation systems that are crucial to the Nation’s commerce, and thus, to the Nation’s economy. The disciplines of engineering, weather and marine forecasting, coastal planning, and marine charting are all integral to this work.

 NOAA embraces two educational methodologies that have been shown to have great potential in enhancing experiences for digital badges: experiential education and place-based education. Experiential education programs engage learners in constructing meaning by using real-world issues and hands-on interaction with natural phenomena. Place-based education immerses the learner in local heritage, culture, landscapes, opportunities, and experiences as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, history, and other subjects. This interdisciplinary approach encourages participants to use the schoolyard, community, public lands, and other special places as resources, turning communities into classrooms.  NOAA has many excellent place-based locations that serve as “living classrooms,” applying real-world contexts for learning and stimulating “hands-on/minds-on” educational opportunities.

 Education resources are distributed across many websites and program offices at NOAA and on NOAA partner websites. provides a sampling of materials from across NOAA.

 NOAA's Satellites and Information Service (NESDIS) provides K-12 teachers, students, educational professionals, and the public with satellite information and educational tools.

 The Coral Reef Conservation Program works closely with states and U.S. territories to address climate change, adverse impacts of fishing, and land-based sources of pollution that damage reef ecosystems.

 National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) protects more than 1.3 million coastal and estuarine acres in 27 reserves located in 21 states and Puerto Rico for purposes of long-term research, education and stewardship. Reserves serve as "living classrooms" that provide, on an annual basis, meaningful experiences for students and adults.

 Teachers on the Estuary introduce teachers to information, research, and classroom activities about watersheds, estuaries, and coastal systems. The course incorporates investigations in the field and using on-line data.

 Data in the Classroom is an online resource for K-12 teachers interested in using real scientific data in their teaching. This Web site is the current home of the NOAA Ocean Data Education (NODE) Project, which is creating curriculum and online tools that demonstrate the use of real-time data.

 The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provides students and educators with  research experiences and materials that support the NMFS mission: stewardship of living marine resources through science-based conservation and management and the promotion of healthy ecosystems.

 National Ocean Service Education team provides tools and professional development for teachers and environmental games, mysteries and resources for students on two websites the and the

 Climate Stewards Education Program (CSEP) is a national NOAA project for educators with sustained professional development and support for stewardship projects in their local communities.  A national network of over 60 educators from elementary school through university and includes informal educators from nature centers, science centers and zoos. Educators agree to participate in at least 15 hours of professional development in climate science and then apply their learning in local stewardship projects. The project uses online learning tools and a wiki to facilitate collaborative learning. One recent event used Second Life. The Virtual Climate Change Conference included presentations and discussions on climate misconceptions, stewardship projects, health effect of climate change, and visualization tools.

 The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, climate and water information to the nation and education programs for teachers and students, grades K-12. A new Young Meteorologist online game provides students with information about being prepared for weather emergencies.  The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network and is a non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive Web-site, the aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications.

 Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) has been federally mandated to promote environmental education through thirteen national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument.

Ocean Guardian programs are designed to encourage children to explore their natural surroundings to form a sense of personal connection to the ocean and/or watersheds in which they live.

The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research strives to engage broad audiences through the excitement of ocean exploration and discovery.

An established network of Sea Grant educators, located at universities across the Nation, is committed to NOAA's goal of advancing environmental literacy and educating future environmental professionals and leaders

NOAA’s Climate Office produces and distributes a range of products to help NOAA fulfill its climate goal.  NOAA Paleoclimatology is a branch of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. Paleo data come from natural sources such as tree rings, ice cores, corals, and ocean and lake sediments-- and extend the archive of weather and climate back hundreds to millions of years.





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