Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



The International Journal of Sustainability Education Volume 8, 2013, pp 161-177, ISSN 2325-1212


© Common Ground, Lisa M. PytlikZillig, Tim Steffensmeier, Amber Campbell Hibbs, Benjamin L. Champion, Eric Hunt, John Harrington, Jr., Jacqueline D. Spears, Natalie Umphlett, Tarik Abdel-Monem, Roger Bruning, Daniel W Kahl


Despite its increasing importance for sustainability, building widespread competency in the basic principles of climate literacy among the United States general public is a great challenge. This article describes the methods and results of a public engagement approach to planning climate change education in the Central Great Plains of the United States. Our approach incorporated contextual and lay expertise approaches to public engagement with a focus on supporting the self-determination of the specific stakeholder groups–rural producers, educators, and community members. An integration of results from the focus groups reveal that our approach was received positively and elicited a number of important themes describing stakeholders’ concerns, interests, and needs pertaining to climate change education. Focus group participants were concerned about climate change, cautious regarding conflicting sources of information, and interested in learning more about climate science and climate change impacts. Across all stakeholder groups, participants consistently expressed a desire for trustworthy, personally- and locally-relevant, easy-to-access information that they could evaluate and use in applications as they saw fit. Although these findings do not yet provide a recipe for concrete educational programming, when viewed through the lenses of social, cognitive and educational theories, they suggest a number of important directions for future research and program implementation that are needed in order to advance the understanding of effective climate change education.