UK-CARES hosts climate and health workshop for Kentucky teachers

Weather forecasting and extreme conditions. A powerful storm forming late in the afternoon. Climate change photo composite.
solarseven, iStock/Getty Images Plus.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2023) — The University of Kentucky Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (UK-CARES) hosted K-12 teachers across Kentucky for a virtual training on climate and health in Kentucky.

The virtual professional development workshop held on Aug. 22, was led by UK-CARES member Alice Turkington, Ph.D., an associate professor of geography in the UK College of Arts and Sciences; community partner Craig Wilmhoff with Perry County Schools; Stacy Stanifer, Ph.D., UK-CARES Community Engagement Core co-Lead; and Dana Haine, K-12 science education manager for the University of North Carolina’s Institute for the Environment.

The workshop provided Kentucky educators with two hours of free professional development training on climate and health content that aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for K-12 students. NGSS was developed to set expectations on student science knowledge levels and improve science education.

Educators developed insights into what climate change looks like in Kentucky, climate influence on human health, and how to incorporate climate and health content into classroom instruction.

"The changing climate is an urgent environmental health concern. By offering this interactive workshop, we brought together K-12 teachers from across Kentucky to discuss creative ways to incorporate lessons on climate change into the classroom. We took the lesson a step further to get students thinking critically about how climate change affects our health and what can be done about it,” said Stanifer, who is also an assistant professor in the College of Nursing.

More than 20 educators from seven counties attended the workshop, primarily representing, Fayette, Jefferson and Perry counties. The majority of the workshop participants have taught students in grades K-12 for five years or more.

After attending the workshop, educators provided UK-CARES feedback on how they will incorporate the new information into future lesson plans.

“I had no idea how heat waves were leading to burns from pavement contact,” commented one teacher.

“I did not know how heavily Kentucky is impacted by climate change,” wrote another educator. “Although this is what the entire workshop was focused on, I was unaware of all the different aspects.”

Educators were inspired to find new ways to include activities that could translate to Advanced Placement-level seniors or use local examples to explain climate and health concepts to students.

“I plan to incorporate discussion about climate change effects into more of the lessons I teach about water and energy. It is all relevant, and this workshop helped me see ways to adapt my lessons to include climate change,” said an attendee in a post-workshop survey.

Other educators plan to establish recycling programs in their classrooms, cross-coordinate some of their lesson plans in various courses and include discussions about climate change health effects in class.


UK-CARES is a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Core Center to enhance research capacity focused on major environmental health impacts to air and water quality that are implicated in environmentally induced disease, as well as emerging threats such as flooding and exposure to new contaminants. Find more information here.

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