Discussions of climate science have become more common in children's literature in recent years. Studies show that books and other media can teach children effective techniques for managing the risks they and their families face from floods, fires, excessive heat, and other weather-related disasters. However, Black voices and stories are rare within this literature, despite the fact that these disasters are more likely to impact areas home to communities of color. To address this imbalance, this conference project will bring together Black children's media creators with climate scientists and developmental psychologists to promote climate science story making that speak to the concerns, circumstances, and experiences of Black audiences. Expertise in the science of climate change and children's development will be captured in a podcast series that will be used to spark conversations and explorations for making children's stories during three hybrid convenings organized using a participant-driven (unconference) format. The intention for these convenings is to lay a foundation for the production of climate science children's media that supports the unique needs of Black families, helping them and their children prepare for and respond to a multitude of environmental threats.
This conference project is a collaboration between Knology, the Highlights Foundation, the National Black Child Development Institute, and the Association of Children's Museums. Across three, two-day unconferences, Black climate scientists, developmental psychologists, informal learning practitioners, authors, illustrators, and publishers will develop strategies for creating climate-related STEM content that are relevant to the lived and future experiences of Black families and children. Their deliberations will address four central questions: (1) What kinds of STEM-related knowledge should be incorporated into children's climate change literature? (2) What is known about existing methods for bringing discussions about climate risk preparedness into early learning spaces and places, and how applicable are these for popular media directed at Black communities, families, and children? (3) What visual and textual storytelling techniques are best suited to the task of centering Black presences in such a way that affirms Black life and nurtures Black children's relationships with the natural world? (4) How can children's literature serve as a vehicle for dismantling anti-Blackness in early environmental education? By working together before, during, and after the unconference convenings, participants will create and publish a suite of resources (including a library of research briefs, a podcast series, conference proceedings, reports, and a guidebook) to help Black media makers develop characters, plot arcs, and story outlines that Black families can use to talk with their children about climate science. The project's outputs will help support making children's media that is better suited to the experiences of Black families, and that contributes to a broader awareness of STEM careers among children of color. With a focus on centering equity and building climate resilience in communities that have been marginalized, this conference focuses on supporting children's media creators and draws attention to the significant role they hold in engaging young children and their families in dialogue on critical issues of climate change and the behaviors and mindsets towards adaptation, mitigation, and resilience.
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