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Highlights Archive
NOAA Office of Education NOAA Office of Education NOAA Homepage


Highlights Archive


FY15 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report

Published March 2016

The FY15 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report highlights 41 stories from across the NOAA Education community. The stories illustrate how NOAA Education is working improve the public's scientific literacy, promote conservation and stewardship, improve safety and preparedness, and develop the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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NOAA Education Publishes Updated Strategic Plan

Published July 2015

We are pleased to announce the release of the 2015 – 2035 NOAA Education Strategic Plan: Advancing NOAA’s Mission through Education. In a truly collaborative fashion, NOAA educators, staff, and leadership combined efforts with the broader education and resource management community, nongovernmental organizations, teachers, and interested citizens to produce this document. We are grateful for the input we received and we look forward to working with you to implement this blueprint for NOAA’s future work in education.

The Strategic Plan is available here:

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FY14 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report

Published May 2015

The FY14 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report highlights 36 stories from across NOAA education programs. The stories illustrate how the education community is working towards its goals of increasing the public’s environmental literacy and developing a diverse workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math.

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Citizen Science in America’s DNA

Published Jan 2015

NOAA Chief Scientist, Dr. Richard Spinrad, presents a keynote talk at the Tracking a Changing Climate Forum. Credit: Commons Lab at Wilson Center.

Note:This article is drawn from a keynote by NOAA Chief Scientist, Dr. Richard Spinrad, at a forum hosted by the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program, the Wilson Center Commons Lab, and the Federal Community of Practice for Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, the forum was entitled, Tracking a Changing Climate .

Citizen science is part of America’s DNA.  For centuries, citizens not trained in science have helped shaped our understanding of Earth.

Thomas Jefferson turned Lewis and Clark into citizen scientists when he asked them to explore the landscape, wildlife and weather during their journeys of the West.They investigated plants, animals and geography, and came back with maps, sketches and journals.  These new data were some of the first pieces of environmental intelligence defining our young nation.  President Jefferson instilled citizen science in my own agency’s DNA by creating the Survey of the Coast, a NOAA legacy agency focused on charting  and protecting the entire coast of our Nation.

National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program, begun in 1890, is an outstanding example of citizen science.  Last year, NOAA honored an observer who has provided weather observations every day for 80 years. Volunteer citizen scientists have transcribed more than 68,000 pages of Arctic ship logs, adding to the long-term climate record by populating a database with historic weather and sea ice observations. Also, citizen scientists are providing new estimates of cyclone intensity by interpreting satellite images.

There is tremendous value in the capability of citizen scientists to feed local data into their own communities’ forecasts. In September 2013, for example, formal observation systems and tracking instruments were washed out when extreme floods struck Colorado and New Mexico. By ensuring that real-time forecasts were still integrated into the National Weather Service Flood Warning System, the reports of about 200 citizen scientists contributed to what has been called the best mapped extreme rain event in Colorado history and possibly nationwide.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network played a pivotal role in this mapping. CoCoRaHS also shows how citizen science can help make data collection straightforward and inexpensive. To measure the impact and size of hail, for example, it uses a Styrofoam sheet covered with tin foil, creating a “hail pad” that has proven to be quite accurate.

The recognized value of citizen science is growing rapidly.  NOAA has an app to crowdsource real-time precipitation data. If you feel a raindrop, or spot a snowflake, report it through NOAA’s mPING app. Precipitation reports have already topped 600,000, and the National Weather Service uses them to fine-tune forecasts.

To improve the usefulness of climate information for the Nation, the recently released National Climate Assessment engaged a wide range of scientists and citizens across the U.S. The National Climate Assessment, made public by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, provides a detailed look at how climate change is affecting and will increasingly affect our lives.  For the second assessment, there were 30 authors. For the third assessment, released last May, 5,000 people were directly engaged, including about 1,000 people providing technical input, 300 authors and more than 150 organizations.

The National Climate Assessment is among several initiatives providing critical climate information to the public, stakeholders across all sectors, and scientific communities. In June 2013, President Obama announced the National Climate Action Plan. The Climate Data Initiative, a part of the Climate Action Plan, is making large volumes of data from multiple sources accessible to all.  The Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda has actions to help States, Tribes, and local governments make our nation’s natural resources more resilient to climate change.  In November of 2014, the Climate Resilience Toolkit was introduced. It is a powerful and practical tool that offers steps to build more resilient communities. It helps a business owner, for example, understand how future sea level rise may affect property values and what adjustments might be needed to business plans and loan requests.   

All of these climate-resilient initiatives will benefit greatly from a set of national indicators. Indicators, which are physical, societal and ecological measures of change, are envisioned as an important foundational product of the National Climate Assessment.  They will help communicate key impacts of a changing environment, identify vulnerabilities, and support informed decisions at every level of government.

Citizen scientists can play a huge role in contributing to these indicators, not only by maximizing the input of local knowledge, but by moving beyond the role of data-collector to become actual evaluators, or co-pilots test-driving products and services. Identifying what is needed, and how and under what conditions it can best work, should come directly from those whose lives, livelihoods, and community economies will be affected.

At NOAA, for example, citizen scientists participate in more than 65 projects, contributing to the environmental intelligence required to advance NOAA core missions.  Building more resilient communities (ecologically, socially and economically) means not only durable infrastructure but making sure the fishing community is able to plan for the effects of climate change on commercially-valuable species.  Evolving the National Weather Service means anticipating that, for example, in some parts of the nation, NOAA customers will benefit from harmful algal bloom forecasts along with traditional weather information.  Ensuring robust observations goes right to the heart of citizen science, requiring the quality and vast breadth of data that only comes with local knowledge.  Citizen scientists can serve as role as co-designers of the products and services developed to advance these priorities.

NOAA has launched a Citizen Science Community of Practice, and we’re pleased to partner with the Citizen Science Association and our Federal partners. Collectively our challenge, and it’s a two-way street, is to fully optimize Federal and local capacities, and to make sure that climate-related indicators truly meet community and sector-specific needs.  Citizen science will be indispensable in gauging the value of these efforts.   

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NOAA Programs Proposed for Termination in FY16 Proposal

Published Feb 2015

Six NOAA STEM education programs are proposed for termination in the FY16 President’s Budget.  Details can be found in NOAA’s Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Justification on the pages listed below.  Click here to link to the Congressional Justification. Additional information on the Administrations FY16 STEM proposal can be found here.

  • Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program* (page NOS-61)
  • Teacher at Sea Program* (page NMFS-69, OMAO-8)
  • Sea Grant STEM education activities including all state Sea Grant Program STEM activities and the Sea Grant/National Marine Fisheries Service Graduate Fellowship Program* (page OAR-131)
  • Ocean Exploration and Research STEM education activities* (page OAR-144)
  • Competitive Education Grants Program** (page PS-24)
  • Bay Watershed Education and Training Program** (page PS-28)

*Proposed to be terminated, but funds stay within the home office to be reinvested in other activities.**Proposed to be terminated, resulting in a funding decrease for the home office as a whole.

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TIME Magazine Names Kathy Sullivan One of the '100 Most Influential People in the World'

Published May 2014

Photo courtesy: Stephen Voss for TIME

On March 6, 2014 Dr. Kathryn Sullivan was confirmed as NOAA's Administrator. Now, she has made the list of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people. Dr. Sullivan is a distinguished scientist, renowned astronaut and intrepid explorer. Dr. Sullivan's profile written by her friend and fellow astronaut John Glenn refers to her as the World's Weather Woman and highlights NOAA and the critical work we do. Congratulations Dr. Sullivan!


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Dr. Kathryn Sullivan Identifies Top Priorities

Published November 2013

In an August 30, 2013 interview in the Washington Post, NOAA's Acting Under Secretary Dr. Kathryn Sullivan identified workforce issues among her top goals for the agency. Specifically, she stated:

I also want to develop our young, emerging leaders, and I'd love to find a way to include more inter-organizational rotational assignments than we currently do. The third is to keep improving the diversity of our workforce. In some fields, we're pretty good on gender diversity, but almost across the board, we're still not seeing the level of success that I would like in bringing underrepresented minorities into our workforce.

Kathy Sullivan in front of Science On a Sphere
Kath Sullivan poses in front of the Science On a Sphere installation at NOAA headquarters

The Office of Education and the Education Council will continue to focus on strengthening the pipeline to attract and retain a highly qualified future workforce that includes underrepresented minorities.

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Director of Education: Briefing on Education Issues within President's FY14 Budget

Published June 2013

On May 13, 2013, the Office of Education hosted a web-based briefing and Q&A session on the Administration's proposal to reorganize and consolidate Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education activities within the federal government. Grantees, partners, and other external constituents of NOAA education activities expressed great interest and over 150 people attended this briefing. The impact of the proposed action was discussed and options for ensuring that NOAA's assets remain available to our partners were explored.

Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan from the National Science and Technology Council (pdf)

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NOAA Hosts its Fifth Science On a Sphere® Users Collaborative Network Workshop

Published January 2013

NOAA and the Aquarium of the Pacific (AOP) recently co-hosted a successful fifth Science On a Sphere® Users Collaborative Network Workshop with support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. NOAA's Office of Education hosts Network workshops every 18 months, bringing institutions that publicly display Science On a Sphere® (SOS) together to collaborate and create best practices on using the sphere as an effective Earth system science education platform.

SOS Presentation
Eddie Goldstein of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science shares new Science On a Sphere® video content and effective docent techniques with the SOS Network.

This workshop took place at AOP in Long Beach, CA on November 6-8, 2012. There were 109 participants in attendance representing 50 different organizations, including museums, science centers, aquariums, zoos, federal agencies, universities, formal education programs, and exhibit and visualization specialists. Attendees represented six countries, reflecting the continued growth of the SOS Network around the world.

The workshop theme was Science & Storytelling, and several keynote speakers helped frame the discussion around this theme. Major agenda elements included: new content and programming for SOS; updates to the technical system; how-to sessions for creating content, becoming a subject matter expert, designing digital interfaces, using real-time data, customizing presentations, and building your own equipment; overview of the SOS Network for new members; and discussions of evaluation and research, stewardship, and professional learning. View the goals and objectives of the workshop for more detail. A workshop report will be posted on the Network workshops and meetings page later this year.

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Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Speaks at Student Symposium

Published July 2012

On July 31, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Deputy Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as Acting Chief Scientist was the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony for the Office of Education's 2012 Student Science and Education Symposium. She provided a sweeping summary of NOAA accomplishments during the 9 weeks of the students' internships, helping them envision how their dynamic summers had contributed to NOAA's achievements. She congratulated all the student scholars for a job well done, gave kudos to Office of Education staff for a successful scholarship program, and posed for a photo with each student award winner.

Sullivan with students

Left to Right: Kandace Kea, Genki Kino, Tricia Thibodeau, Maria Tarduno, Ethan Coffel, Dr. Kathy Sullivan, Collin Perkinson, Vinoo Ganesh, Kelly Gregorcyk, Ellen Ward, Jennifer Mills, Neesha Schnepf

This annual Student Symposium is comprised of 3 days of sessions and information sharing, the culmination of internships at NOAA locations around the United States for 130 Hollings and EPP student scholarship recipients. These fortunate undergraduates selected scientific projects designed by NOAA scientists, and spent 9 weeks of the summer contributing to research and analysis associated with these projects. During their 10th week, all of them participated in this opportunity to share a summary of their results with the NOAA community. NOAA scientists and policy staff judged each oral and poster presentation. Scholar presentations were grouped in concurrent sessions according to NOAA's four long term goals; healthy oceans; resilient coastal communities and economies; a weather-ready nation; and climate adaptation and mitigation.

The event was conducted in the same manner as numerous professional conferences, providing many of these students their first opportunity to experience an oral or poster presentation before an audience. The judging process had clearly-defined criteria, with numeric scores awarded. Winning presentations for each category were based on the highest point score, and first place winners received a cash award. These scores, along with judges' comments and suggestions are subsequently provided to each student, to assist them in improving their presentation skills. Furthermore, each year, students are surveyed about their experiences during the summer internship and at the Symposium, to ensure that each subsequent gathering provides the best possible experience for these ambitious student scholars!

Award Winners

Weather-Ready Nation
1st Place – Genki Kino, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI
Climate Adaptation and Mitigation
Honorable Mention – Ethan Coffel, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Weather-Ready Nation
1st Place – Neesha Schnepf, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Honorable Mention – Jennifer Mills, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Climate Adaptation and Mitigation
1st Place – Tricia Thibodeau, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
Honorable Mention – Ellen Ward, Columbia University, New York, NY
ORAL - Resilient Coastal Communities
1st Place – Maria Tarduno, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY
1st Place (tie) – Kandace Kea, Howard University, Washington, DC
Honorable Mention – Kelly Gregorcyk, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC
Healthy Oceans
1st Place - Collin Perkinson, Reed College, Portland, OR
Honorable Mention – Vinoo Ganesh, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

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Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Speaks at NOAA CREST Day!

Published May 2012

Kathy Sullivan at CREST

The 11th Annual NOAA Cooperative Remote Sensing Science and Technology Center (CREST) Day was held on Thursday, April 19, 2012 in the City College of New York's (CCNY) Steinman Hall, and proved once again to be greatly successful at promoting and inspiring Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education to the next generation of scientists and engineers. Attendees heard from an assemblage of top scientists and NOAA speakers, including Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction/NOAA Deputy Administrator.

Since its inception in 2001, the annual NOAA CREST Day has showcased the research and opportunities that make NOAA CREST such a unique and special part of the New York metropolitan area. Following its recent inauguration to status as a City University of New York Institute, the NOAA CREST gathering fulfilled its promise of a fun-filled and informative day for anyone interested in coastal, atmospheric and hydrologic sciences. Attendees included more than 150 metro area high school students, as well as CCNY undergraduate and graduate students, NOAA CREST faculty and researchers and special invited guests.

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Dr. Rebecca Blank, gives a keynote address on STEM education

Published March 2012

Dr. Rebecca Blank

Dr. Blank's talk highlights recent reports by NOAA's sister agency in the Department of Commerce, the Economics and Statistics Bureau. The three reports examine Census data on STEM education and jobs. The reports conclude that STEM education promotes racial and ethnic equality, that growth in STEM jobs was three-times faster than non-STEM jobs and that women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. These reports can be found at:
To hear Dr. Blank's keynote address, please see

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