G-WOW “Hear the Water Speak” Climate Institute

2016 G-WOW Institute participants on Stockton Island

2016 G-WOW Institute participants after a climate investigation on Lake Superior’s Stockton Island

G-WOW Climate Change Institutes and Field Courses offer climate change professional development training for educators and community leaders to improve climate literacy, communication competency, and confidence.  We can customize G-WOW climate change training to meet your needs.

For example, take a look at the climate change learning experiences we shared at the 2016 G-WOW Hear the Water Speak Institute

Despite severe flooding and storms, the 2016 G-WOW “Hear the Water Speak” Institute provided climate change professional development training to 28 educators and community leaders.  This year’s Institute had a special focus on climate change and “nibi” (Ojibwe for “water”) and aquatic environments.  The four-day professional development institute was held July 18-21 at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, in Ashland WI and attracted participants from across the county and Canada, including five First Nations tribal elders from Ontario and officials from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

“We definitely heard the ‘water speak’ in the place-based evidence experienced at the Institute due to storm impacts on local communities”, states Cathy Techtmann-UW Extension Environmental Outreach Specialist and Institute director. The storm offered placed-based evidence that syncs with scientific climate research that projects greater frequency of heavy precipitation events within the Lake Superior basin. These events demonstrated how the G-WOW model can be used to integrate place-based evidence of climate change with science to increase climate literacy. Participants “connected the drops” through field investigations, classroom training, and new teaching tools to develop a climate education outreach projects for their classroom or community.

The Institute investigated climate impacts on the region’s environment, culture, and economies through classroom training and field investigations within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and surrounding tribal lands. Participants investigated how climate is affecting the sustainability of tree species and the cultures and economies that rely on them. Applying climate research from the Northern Institute on Applied Climate Science (NIACS) Forest Service-USDA, they marked trees to see how the composition of a forest may change and how these changes could impact communities and economies. They made Ojibwe birch bark containers from paper birch, a species that projected to decline, as an indicator of climate’s impact on culture. On Lake Superior’s Stockton Island, a “Climate Walk” revealed how changes over geologic time have affected the island in comparison to how climate change is affecting it today. The cancellation of a boat tour to investigate climate impacts on the Bad River Tribe’s wild rice beds due to flood damage only brought home the importance of climate and culture.


A G-WOW Institute alumni teacher brings his students to a G-WOW Coastal Climate Camp for a “Forest Winners & Losers” program.

The “big so-what” of a G-WOW Institute is equipping participants with the tools and confidence to develop climate change educational outreach that is culturally relevant to their communities and will result in action to address climate change. Tips for communicating about climate change and outreach tools like the G-WOW Project BudBurst phenology tool, Climate Jeopardy Game, and Forest Winners and Losers activity were demonstrated as fun, interactive activities to engage people. Institute alumni receive follow-up support from project partners.

All resources featured in G-WOW Institutes and the full G-WOW curriculum can be accessed via the G-WOW website (www.g-wow.org).

Training doesn’t end on the Institute’s last day. Alumni can schedule G-WOW climate change “camps” to bring their school or community group back for a customized G-WOW based climate change program. Educators and their students can post climate change service learning projects they’ve developed via the G-WOW website’s Talking Circle” blog to share with others. The G-WOW curriculum strategy, virtual training resources, and lesson plans developed by educators are posted on the website’s Teacher Corner section.

This year’s Institute was professionally filmed and will be used to create a training video to help others to develop G-WOW institutes within their communities. The video will be available via YouTube in 2017 and posted on the G-WOW website. The G-WOW web-based curriculum (www.g-wow.org ) will be expanded in 2017 to include a new curriculum unit on water and climate change.


The “Web of Life” activity demonstrates the inteconnectedness of climate, culture, and the environment.

The Institute is part of the “Gikinoo’wizhiwe Onji Waaban (Guiding for Tomorrow) or “G-WOW” climate change initiative partnership between the US Forest Service- Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest, National Park Service-Apostle Island National Lakeshore, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The 2016 G-WOW “Hear the Water Speak” Institute was funded by a Great Lake Restoration Initiative grant through the National Park Service-Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It is the fifth year a G-WOW Institute has been offered to provide climate change literacy professional development training to teachers and non-formal educators.

Miigwech (Thank you) to everyone who participated and contributed to making this Institute a success!

Visit the archives of past G-WOW Institutes