This year in the Twin Cities our peak fall colors match perfectly with the peak of our fall education programs. (In contrast, on this day in 2002 an early season snowstorm blanketed this region with 3-9 inches of snow!)

One program we offer is Mississippi River Climate Change Field Trips, which includes a phenology hike, weather station data collection, and a service project. These field trips are possible through a partnership with MN DNR, Mississippi Park Connection, and Climate Generation.

As part of our preparation to help with these field trips, Regan and I participated in Climate Generation’s 2016 Summer Institute for Climate Change Education. This four day conference brought 40 educators together to gain skills in integrating climate change into education programs. It was a great opportunity to connect with educators in the Twin Cities Metro Area, not only to gauge interest in our climate change field trips, but also to make connections with our local schools.

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Regan Baker and Melissa Clark with Dr. Benjamin Santer, atmospheric scientist and lead author of the climate change detection and attribution chapter of the 1995 IPCC report.

A couple of weeks before the field trips, I visited Seward Montessori School in Minneapolis, MN. My goal was to introduce key ideas about climate change to the 180 students who would be participating in our field trips. We talked about greenhouse gases and the difference between climate and weather.

These field trips incorporate 3 of the 4 components of the play, learn, serve, work campaign. During their visit to Fort Snelling State Park, 4th and 5th graders learn about recreation opportunities in our park and are encouraged to return to the river with their families. They loved playing a quick game of tag in the autumn leaves during their lunch break!

Students learn about several aspects of climate change, including how we measure weather and climate, how phenology can be used to track climate change impacts, and how climate change is helping some invasive species thrive. My main role in this program is leading the phenology hike!

We use maps like these to show students how seasonal changes, like peak fall color days, can vary over time.

Students also complete a service activity removing invasive buckthorn. Buckthorn is one of the first plants in the spring to leaf out and one of the last to lose its leaves in the fall. As climate change lengthens the Minnesota growing season, it is becoming even more difficult to stop this fast growing invasive. Through their service, these students are taking action to lessen climate change impacts in our park. We want all students to come away from this program knowing they can take action to address climate change.

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Students make observations about seasonal changes during the phenology hike.

What will you do to take action against climate change? What local impacts have you experienced?