NJSGC’s Education Specialist Mindy Voss & K-12 Program Coordinator Diana Burich Complete NNOCCI Training to Better Communicate and Interpret Climate Change

July 6th, 2017

According to their website, NNOCCI (National Network for Climate and Ocean Change Interpretation) is a collaborative effort led by the New England Aquarium along with several other notable environmental organizations and institutions, working to establish a national network of professionals who are skilled in communicating and translating climate and ocean science to a broader public audience.  The overall goal is to change the nature of public conversation about issues of climate change to be inviting, empowering and solutions-oriented.

NJSGC’s very own Education Specialist Mindy Voss and K-12 Program Coordinator Diana Burich recently teamed-up to complete this program, involving several weeks of hands-on training and interactive lessons through informative study circles. Voss and Burich hope to use such newfound experience and knowledge to help better communicate the impacts of climate change.


To learn more about Voss and Burich’s exciting involvement with NNOCCI, please continue reading below!

Can you give a brief overview of what NNOCCI is and your involvement?

NNOCCI stands for National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation. Their goal is to achieve a network of skilled and trained professionals who can effectively communicate ocean and climate science to public audiences to create a more positive conversation about climate change that is engaging, empowering, and solutions oriented. NNOCCI was created through a collaboration between the American Zoological Association (AZA), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and FrameWorks Institute. NNOCCI, with the help of FrameWorks Institute, has looked through and done the social science research to find the most effective ways to communicate science and climate change to the public.  Through a NSF grant, the research was turned into a training program for  informal science educators, to teach them the social science and how to implement these scientifically-proven ways to talk to the public about climate change, and how to create a positive discourse around climate change that is solutions oriented. This training program has been on-going every Fall and Spring since 2014. However, this spring the training was broken down into smaller study circles, and instead of a few intensive weeks of in-person training for educators across the country, the program spread out over 17 weeks and was broken up into 3 regional study circles –  a Southeast, Northeast, and West Coast. I was  part of the Northeast study circle, which included 18 other informal science educators from Maine to New Jersey. The training included a variety of live and recorded webinars, online reading, interactive activities, and three (two-day long) in-person meetings. We were given an assignment to complete each week, and communicated with each other on climateinterpretor.org.

How did participating in the study circle develop and enhance your knowledge of ocean and climate change? 

The biggest enhancement [I received] from the study circle is how to start and properly frame a conversation about climate change with a variety of audiences.  I learned how to get others to understand why they should care about climate change [and] how to teach the science so that others can understand it, [including] the root cause of the problem.  I learned techniques on how to keep the conversation positive, engaging, and hopeful, and how to steer away from the negativity and falsehoods that often surrounds climate change.  I learned to make others realize that if people come together in their communities, schools, or other groups, there are solutions that can make differences to slow (or even stop) climate change.

How do you plan on utilizing these new skills in your own study and teaching environment?

Besides just framing a conversation about climate change in the educational programs that I do, I plan [on] passing on all of the communication skills I learned to all our educators and  field instructors at NJ Sea Grant.  Next fall and winter I will be holding a few different training days to give staff an opportunity to learn these new skills.  It is my goal that all field trips at Sandy Hook will include a properly framed conversation about ocean and climate change with students [starting] in grade three up through college years. I will also pass along many of these skills to formal and informal educators at various professional development workshops that NJSGC participates in every year.

How might the NJSGC community benefit from your ongoing connection and work with the program?

Everyone in the NJSGC community will get a chance to learn the scientifically proven and effective techniques I learned about communicating climate change.  I think this will improve many of our programs and interactions with the public, so people better understand why some of the work done (and science research funded) by NJSGC is so important. For the education program, it is my goal that all field trips given by NJSGC at Sandy Hook will include a properly framed conversation about ocean and climate change for all ages.  My hope is that all students walk away from a field trip knowing the definition of climate and the ocean’s role in controlling it, understanding what climate change is and its impact on marine environments, why they should care, and what they can do about it.

I also made some great contacts through this program, from scientists at universities to educators at other educational programs in the area,. Hopefully we will be able to collaborate on future projects with them to improve or create new programming at NJSGC.  For example, through a contact I made [through NNOCCI], we already have a grant proposal out in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) to create a six-week long educational work study program for under-served high school students in Monmouth County. This proposed program will help students learn how park and recreation activities along with protected natural environments enhance and create value in their communities. We just put in the proposal, so the grant has not yet been approved.

For more information on the NNOCCI program, please visit the Climate Interpreter website.