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NASA can help you teach sustainable design

Yesterday I gave a talk about climate change to a classroom full of 10 year olds. It’s challenging to make climate change straightforward, which is perhaps why recent recommendations are to include it in middle school (see my update at the end of this post). I still think it’s important that we start much earlier.

One of my key missions was to explain how the climate can be warming when the UK is experiencing a string of record cold seasons over the past few years (It’s the Jet Stream).

In addition, rather than deliver the usual messages about “simple things you can do at home” I talked about policy, education and science/tech/design. I presented a range of really provocative and inspirational designs (many seen on this very blog) aimed at helping move people to new, low energy lifestyles. I showed some living buildings, alternative transportation and energy aware appliances:

energy aware clock and power aware cord from Sweden’s Interactive Institute as reported by the Cooper Hewitt

My call to action was for these kids to become climate leaders and to shake things up by imagining and creating new ways of living. The 10-minute exercise at the end showed that they are indeed up to the task.

But the point that may interest anyone connected with university design students is that, as before, I’ve found NASA to be a great source of “raw material” for images, video and article resources.

The videos I used here were The Carbon Crisis in 90 Seconds and a silent animation (time lapse) of deforestation in the Brazilian rainforest (34 seconds).

In general NASA, being a public agency, offers many of its amazing images and film as part of the public domain (I used some NASA images in the Designers Atlas of Sustainability, for example), and much copyrighted material is already cleared for re-use with appropriate credit observations. See the NASA use policy here. A nice feature of these videos is that you can download them for offline projection (and no advertising!).

In addition, I think of NASA, despite their “adventurous” mission, as having a reputation for being rigorous about science, which gives their material a different flavor than, say, something from Greenpeace or Worldwatch. Don’t get me wrong, I use materials from many great environmental groups all the time, but NASA can be handy for occasions when you have a mixed or skeptical audience (I was thinking of the school children’s parents in this case).

While NASA has an “educators” section, I find using google or bing to search for a topic video + NASA, as well as NASA’s own search function are good ways to find video and images.

Got a great resoure you can share? — let us know in the comments.

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