DATE: September 14, 2021


Contact: Sara Clough,; 917-621-6135

New York, NY – Teachers College, Columbia University will create an innovative climate change education program for K-12 schools and will evaluate educational programming in collaboration with a climate modeling center to be led by Columbia University, and funded by a competitive National Science Foundation grant announced September 9.

The $25 million grant to Columbia will fund a new, artificial intelligence-based climate modeling center called Learning the Earth with Artificial Intelligence and Physics (LEAP). The Center will combine climate and data science with artificial intelligence to develop new algorithms that will advance the science of climate change projections. Teachers College will contribute to one of the center’s broader goals to provide actionable information for societies to adapt to climate change and protect populations who are most susceptible to its effects.

“Tackling the growing hazards of climate change will require a concerted, collaborative effort across disciplines and sectors,” said Teachers College President Thomas Bailey. “Teachers College is honored to work alongside Columbia University’s LEAP center to develop and evaluate pedagogy and content that will enable educators, students and the broader public to understand and adapt to climate change, while advocating for those who face the greatest risks.”

Teachers College will work to incorporate LEAP’s research advances into education and training workshops for educators and parents. Oren Pizmony-Levy, Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education and director of the Center for Sustainable Futures; and Paulo Blikstein, Associate Professor of Communications, Media and Learning Technology Design, and director of the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab, are developing an annual Summer Institute for K-12 educators and school staff, and a separate annual educational conference for parents from New York City public schools.

The five-day, professional development Institute, to be held each summer from 2022 through 2026, will train 20 K-12 educators each summer in the use of climate modeling and big data in their classes, in which participants will develop standards-aligned lesson plans and curricular units.

“Now, more than ever, our schools need quality climate science education based on leading research and technologies,” said Teachers College Provost, Dean, and Vice President for Academic Affairs Stephanie Rowley. “Teachers College is uniquely positioned to partner with LEAP to support teachers and parents in translating research into meaningful practice in their classrooms and communities.”

Pizmony-Levy said the Summer Institutes will “empower teachers by exposing them to cutting-edge scientific research on climate change that is critical to fostering the next generation of climate scientists, policy makers and activists. We're doing more than just giving teachers facts about climate change, but sparking research questions, evidence assessments and more to create dynamic, meaningful classroom experiences.”

Blikstein added that “we need everyone to understand the complexities of climate change to make informed decisions. But we cannot expect students to accomplish it if we do not engage them in real, deep scientific inquiry using the best available pedagogical and technological tools.”

To sustain and share the dialog with other teachers, workshop participants will be invited to take part in a virtual professional learning community that will offer ongoing support while they implement and test the teaching units. All teaching units and related materials will be open source, and posted online for wide dissemination  through a series of webinars.

In addition to preparing educators, the team is organizing a yearly, half-day conference for parents to increase their engagement and support for climate change education. The conference will introduce parents to research from the LEAP Center and to local policies and programs that seek to engage schools with climate change research and action. Participants from the Summer Institute will present their work and experience at the conference.

The LEAP Center’s goal is to develop a new field of "climate data science” and to evaluate how well this field can be established through educational programming at the K-12, undergraduate and graduate levels. Charles Lang, Senior Executive Director of the Digital Futures Institute at Teachers College, will work with members of the Columbia team to design and implement the evaluation of LEAP’s educational programs, from K-12 through higher education. They will also study the overall impact of LEAP’s educational activities.

Carol Scheffner Hammer, Teachers College Interim Vice Provost for Research and Academic Affairs added:  “The National Science Foundation grant is a testament to our interdisciplinary research, intellectual diversity and innovation. Bringing together faculty experts in sustainability education, data science and digital technologies will enable Teachers College to present the issue of climate change to educators, parents and the public in a vivid, crucial way.”

The Center for Learning the Earth with Artificial Intelligence and Physics is one of six new science and technology centers announced by the U.S. National Science Foundation.