ACES 2021-2022

Action for Climate Equity and Sustainability

The ACES Professional Development program is a partnership between TUSD and UA Sky School that offers teachers an opportunity to build both content and pedagogy skills. You’ll deepen your understanding of climate change and related environmental challenges, and the associated social justice issues created or worsened by climate disruption. Content will provide a place-based study of these issues, focusing specifically on the effects in Tucson and Southern Arizona. You’ll be supported in the creation of engaging science lessons and use PBL strategies to spearhead a student-driven sustainability project in order to impact the school or wider community.

To Apply
Open to 4th – 6th grade teachers in TUSD. Teams from the same school are encouraged to apply. Selection will begin August 23rd, 2021 and closes once all openings are filled. Please fill out the application and return to You can also download a flyer to share with others.
Example outcomes from the 2020-2021 ACES cohort

  • Gain a solid understanding of the 2018 Arizona Science Standards and how to implement 3D teaching
  • Be supported to develop engaging science lessons that incorporate reading, writing, and math
  • Utilize place-based teaching and a social justice focus to build relevance in your students’ lives
  • Learn about large-scale and local climate issues from researchers at UArizona and local organizations
  • Connect with education and community leaders
  • Paid professional development ($25/hour for all workshops) and up to 50 hours toward recertification
  • Attend 9 online half-day Saturday workshops (9 am – 12:15 pm) from September to May (September 18, October 23, November 20, December 11, January 22, February 19, March 26, April 23, May 7) and complete all associated work (~1.5 hours per workshop; we use Google Classroom). Each workshop will include a session focusing on science content, and another session on STEM pedagogy.
  • Attend up to 3 in person, outdoor field excursions for hands-on learning: November 6, December 4, and February 5 (Make-up day scheduled March 5th in case of inclement weather any of the other days)
  • Implement science lessons in your classroom that you develop during the workshops
  • Lead a sustainability project developed with your students to benefit your school or local community
  • Share your lessons and project with other educators and the community

This ACES class has taught me about doing science with the end goal of students making a personal connection to the phenomenon.

I loved all of the presenters. I learned so much that I was sharing articles with people who are not even involved with education.

I loved all the community connections and presentations. I learned so much from the other scientists and from the cohort group. This was amazing.

I enjoy talking to another teacher from a different site. It adds a different perspective.

[I learned that] climate change isn’t a “bad word” and we should be speaking it more in the classroom as science teachers.

Currently teaching or will be teaching 4th, 5th, or 6th grade at a TUSD school in southern Arizona
Project Details
Research study principal investigator / project lead

Rebecca Lipson

Tucson Unified School District lead

Dr. Adelle McNiece


Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice

Project title

Building Environmental and Climate Education Equity and Action in K-6 Education

Project summary

As communities develop climate response plans to mitigate the hardships a changing climate brings, the gap between the haves and have-nots becomes apparent. This is seen even in Tucson, the third-fastest-warming city in the U.S., where inequity results in significantly less tree shade in the southern parts of the city compared to the north. Developing the next generation of environmental leaders to address these challenges locally requires inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds. However, many young people do not gain exposure to environmental science and climate change topics, nor do they build connections to their local environments, in part because their teachers are not well versed in these topics.

This project brings together Sky School and Project WET with the Tucson Unified School District. We will recruit two cohorts of twenty 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers in underserved schools for monthly, year-long professional development days on climate science and sustainability, emphasizing local issues. Through connections with University of Arizona researchers and community leaders, teachers will build knowledge of the science behind climate change and its local impacts. They will be supported by curriculum experts in creating engaging lessons to implement with their students. As a final project, students and teachers will utilize project-based learning to create and carry out an action plan on a sustainability topic they identify as important in their school or community.

This project will develop a cohort of teachers engaged in climate and sustainability, who will influence students at underserved schools for years to come.

Purpose of research

We are trying to find out whether K-12 teacher professional development programs impact these teachers’ classroom practices.

Nature of participant involvement in research

Your participation in the research will require approximately 1 hour of your time over 1 year. The research involves completion of surveys and potentially short interviews. The surveys will ask for demographic and employment information, but you may leave these questions blank if you like. We will do our best to protect your privacy throughout the research process. Your name will not be used in any research outputs.

Control group: a survey will be administered, either online or in person. This survey will be administered at the beginning and end of 1 year of time. Two separate control groups will be recruited, one per project-year.

Intervention group: a survey will be administered, either online or in person. This survey will be administered at the beginning of each project year to each cohort of teachers. Participants will then participate in the program over 1 year of time. During the program, participants will be observed and occasionally interviewed by project personnel at a time and location of their choice (e.g. before/after program activities) to determine what aspects of the program seem impactful and useful. Participants will be observed by the researcher during the program activities. At the end of the 1-year cohort experience, participants will fill out another survey.

Depending on time availability of project personnel, we may also request that participants fill out further surveys or respond to interview requests in the 1-5 year period after their participation in the program.

Institutional approval

An Institutional Review Board responsible for human subjects research at The University of Arizona reviewed this research study and found it to be acceptable, according to applicable state and federal regulations and University policies designed to protect the rights and welfare of participants in research.