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While most undergraduate students in the United States accept that climate change is occurring, they often harbor alternative conceptions associated with its distance spatially, temporally, hypothetically, and socially (Duke & Holt, 2022; Spence et al., 2012). The construct of psychological distance (PD) explains that an individual may recognize that climate change is a problem; however, they may believe it 1) is only affecting other people (high social distance), 2) is occurring far from their location (high spatial distance), 3) will occur in the future, but is not impacting them now (high temporal distance), or 4) is uncertain and therefore not worrisome (high hypothetical distance) (Spence et al., 2012; Trope & Liberman, 2010). When individuals perceive climate change to be distant, across any scale, they often have reduced concern for climate change effects, often decreasing their willingness to engage in sustainable behaviors (Busch & Chávez, 2022; Gubler et al., 2019; McDonald et al., 2015). Personally and geographically relevant education can not only lower students' PD but can also increase the efficacy of student learning of climate change (Theobald et al., 2015) and environmental action (Altinay, 2017).

Our project aimed to lower undergraduate biology students' social and spatial psychological distance of climate change (Spence et al., 2012) through the creation of a classroom activity that used principles from place-based education (Semken & Butler-Freeman, 2008; Yemini et al., 2023) and the teaching for transformative experience (TTES) model (Pugh 2011; Pugh et al., 2017). Our 3-hour-long climate change activity is situated in local contexts and covers a broad range of ecosystem and human impacts of climate change.


2022-2023 Assessment Mini-Grant