Coproduction of Embodied Climate Curriculum Gains STEAM

Program Contact

Beth Osnes


Beth Osnes (Theatre), Carl Simpson (CU Museum of Natural History), Jim Hakala (CU Museum of Natural History), and Patrick Chandler (Environmental Studies PhD student) are piloting a coproduced curriculum with a diverse set of schools in Jefferson County focused on the embodied exploration of fossils, energy, and climate for 4th/5th grade students in Colorado.

This past year, the faculty, staff, and student involved in this project teamed up with administrative staff and teachers in the Jefferson County School District to coproduce and pilot the first draft of this new curriculum. This coming year we will pilot the curriculum with a broader and more diverse set of schools whose 4th and 5th grade teachers will implement lessons in the 2020/2021 school year in order to prepare for the district-wide rollout of the curriculum in 2021/2022. This will be done through a series of workshops co-facilitated by CU Boulder faculty, staff and graduate students as well as teachers from Stober Elementary (our original pilot school).

Additionally, the project team will work together to document and publish the framework used in the coproduction process as a template and distribute the curriculum through national networks such as the Climate Literacy and Energy Action Network (CLEAN of which Chandler is a fellow and Osnes is an active member). Our goal is to create an embodied, tactile experience for learners that enables hands-on experiences with real fossils, including trilobites, and enacting different geologic processes such as dramatizing the death of an ancient plant or animal and the processes that transformed them into a fossil fuel, fossil, or soil. We will accomplish this goal by publishing a curriculum tested in diverse classroom settings and establishing the framework through which that curriculum was designed. The project addresses all three campus strategic imperatives by teaching students new communication techniques, showing CU as a leader in innovative curriculum development, and combining art and science to help overcome communication barriers.

Benefiting from the lessons learned in our pilot phase, supported by an Office for Outreach and Engagement Community Impact Grant, this next phase will pilot the curriculum within JeffCO schools, with an effort to reach schools with at least 50% of students in the free and reduced lunch program. After that phase, with those teachers and our partnering JeffCO administrative staff, we will finalize a curriculum perfectly timed to align with their introduction of new Colorado science standards being implemented. Our objective is to have a classroom-tested curriculum for implementation in the JeffCO school district to help meet their “Generation” standards for 21st Century Learners. Generation standards seek to engage the whole student beyond mere content mastery to skills in cooperation, self-authorship, and problem solving – all of which our curriculum addresses through active learning with plenty of voice and choice for the student.

In response to some of our plans being disrupted by the global pandemic and the transition to online learning, we have used this time to translate Project Drawdown climate solutions for 5th-grade level access for use in the elementary classroom to guide students in understanding climate solutions. With CU students, Osnes and Chandler partnered with University Hill Elementary 5th graders and their teachers to receive expert peer review from elementary students to respond to their work. This was to make accessible the top solutions for reversing global warming so as to align 4th and 5th grade student authorship of local solutions with impactful action. Over the summer of 2020, the team will work to translate all 76 Drawdown solutions as a powerful tool to support this curriculum. They are patterning with Dr. Elizabeth Bagley at Project Drawdown in completing and disseminating this work.

  • Jefferson County Schools Program


    In Colorado




    Public or Private

    Private Program (by request only or for a specific audience or group)

    Program Fee

    Not Applicable

Sponsoring Units

  • College of Arts & Sciences

  • Department of Theatre and Dance
  • Environmental Studies Program
  • Research Institutes

  • University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

Program Partners

  • CU Museum of Natural History
  • Jeffco School District
  • Department of Theatre & Dance
  • CU Environmental Studies
  • Inside the Greenhouse

Audiences Served

  • Students - Elementary School
  • Teachers - Elementary School