Leading environmental scientist Prof. Stephanie Pfirman and her team of the Polar Learning and Responding Climate Change Education Partnership contributed to its first-ever Arctic Science Ministerial on September 28. The Ministerial, which brought together ministers of science and chief science advisors from 24 countries around the world, as well as representatives from indigenous groups, was held as a follow-up to President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska, which was a spotlight on climate change. Participants agreed to work cooperatively to study rapid changes in the Arctic and to incorporate their research into policies.

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One of the four key themes of the Ministerial was “Arctic Science as a Vehicle for STEM and Citizen Empowerment.'”  In preparation for the Ministerial, White House organizers invited Prof. Pfirman and her team, who are supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, to present their innovative educational approaches to enhance the public’s understanding of and response to climate change.  

The EcoChains card game teaches survival in the rapidly warming Arctic.

These innovative approaches were featured in a Ministerial “Side Event,” co-led by Prof. Pfirman and her team, which took place on September 27 in advance of this historic event.  The Side Event was open to the public and includes hands-on activities and resources developed by the Polar Partnership, including a data visualization app on rising sea levels and a card game on survival in the rapidly warming Arctic called “EcoChains: Arctic Crisis.”  Research indicates that such novel educational approaches help people to better understand the changing Arctic environment, and often result in people talking about concerns to friends, families and colleagues. 

Prof. Pfirman demonstrates her EcoChains game to attendees of the White House Arctic Science Ministerial Side-Event.

Prof. Pfirman is Hirschorn Professor of Environmental Science and  co-Chair of Barnard's Department of Environmental Science.  She holds a joint appointment with Columbia University, where she is a member of the faculties of the Earth Institute and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Adjunct Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.  Professor Pfirman’s scientific research focuses on the Arctic environment, in particular on the nature and dynamics of Arctic sea ice under changing climate.  Her previous research activities have included melting and surging glaciers and pollution transported by sea ice. Professor Pfirman is currently principal investigator of the Polar Learning and Responding: PoLAR Climate Change Education Partnership supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), advancing innovative approaches to climate change communication.  She is also a Parents' Choice Award-winner, along with co-principal investigator Joey Lee from the Teachers College, for the card game EcoChains: Arctic Crisis, which was supported by the NSF PoLAR and the Columbia Climate Center.