98. The Green Ninja
Although climate change is one of the most important issues society faces today, most children know very little about the subject and their teachers are often underprepared to incorporate these topics into their classes. The soon to be adopted Next Generation Science Standards are a new framework that for the first time includes anthropogenic climate change topics at various grade levels. The challenge remains that the teachers who will be asked to adopt these new standards will need additional professional development and appropriate learning materials to present these topics to their students. Thus there is a pressing need to develop innovative and effective learning materials to bring climate change and sustainability topics to young children and their teachers.
The Green Ninja is a superhero that inspires kids to take action on climate change. Through humorous films and associated media products, the Green Ninja Project develops tools that help students take steps towards a more sustainable world. At present, various live-action and animated Green Ninja films have been completed with total YouTube viewership of around 600,000 (www.youtube.com/greenninjatv). Each film includes teacher resources so that the Green Ninja can be used as an engagement piece for climate and energy topics in the classroom. The Green Ninja project started in 2010 and is a collaborative San Jose State University (SJSU) faculty/student effort joining scientists, educators, and artists. Support for the Green Ninja originally came from the National Science Foundation, but now includes funding from NASA’s Climate Change Education Project, The City of San Jose’s Energy Champion Program and the County of San Mateo. The most recent funding comes from a successful crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cordero/the-green-ninja-show). The primary audience is upper elementary to middle school children, ages 8 to 14. Educational research suggests that interest in science can be determined as early as fifth grade, and public TV shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy have been shown to have a positive effect on student science ability. Our goal is to engage students through the adventures of the Green Ninja using the broad topics of food, water and energy. At present, there are a number of ongoing projects. The most ambitious is The Green Ninja Show, a 16-week variety program hosted by the Green Ninja and displayed on YouTube. Each show (2-5 minutes) will feature a collection of short films, cartoons, skits, interviews, and experiments around the field of climate science and solutions. The show will build on existing content and leverage on the faculty and student expertise of Spartan Film Studios and the Animation and Illustration departments at SJSU. One of the goals of the show is to build a larger subscriber base and connect more young people to the Green Ninja. Other components of the Green Ninja project include incorporating games and contests in the classroom that help teach children about climate science. The Green Ninja Smart Energy Contest (http://www.greenninja.org/contest/gnerp.php) was developed to educate students about how their individual actions can decrease their home energy use. This contest asks students to use their PG&E SmartMeter to measure and track how their actions can reduce their home energy use. Teacher resources kits (kill-a-watt meter, lesson plans etc.) are provided for teachers interested in implementing the contest in their classroom. The results of the first pilot contest during Fall 2012 showed that student action reduced daily electricity use by about 15% compared to the weeks prior to the contest. The Green Ninja project is also developing web and phone-based application that help people take actions in their community to promote energy conservation. When participants engage in energy efficient behaviors, an interactive map documents their action and shares it with others in the community. Actions are organized by categories like energy, water, waste, and food and other users can rate each action. The software is currently in development (https://greenninja.didthis.com) and will soon be available for iOS and Android mobile platforms. Like Smokey the Bear and Woodsy Owl, the Green Ninja aims to become a universally recognized icon for education and action on climate change.
Why it should be recognized:
The Green Ninja is an innovative method of using new media tools to engage young people in the topics of climate science. Although improving science education in K-12 schools is especially challenging due to budgets and testing pressure, the Green Ninja aims to support teachers and their students by producing helpful and engaging materials that their students will enjoy and find interesting. By creating a sense of urgency and empowerment, students are encouraged to engage in their community in ways that promote a more informed and sustainable society. The Green Ninja uses science, humor, and social media to create experiences that inform students and provide the tools to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Submitted: Jan 31, 2013
Author: Eugene Cordero
  • Energy (Resources)
  • Communications (Human Systems)
  • Culture and Engagement (Human Systems)
  • Human Behavior Change (Human Systems)
  • Education (Industry)
  • Food/Agriculture (Industry)
  • Transportation (Industry)
  • Air Quality Regulation (Planetary System)
  • Climate & Natural Hazard Regulation (Planetary System)
URL: www.greenninja.org