Students and Scientist – tracing climate change in different fields

Anthropogenic climate change is one of the pressing challenges society has to address, young people are in a unique position people to do so. 

People on a glacier. Photo

Students doing research on glacier retreat. Photo: Kay Helftricht

Young people are in a unique position

Anthropogenic climate change is one of the pressing challenges society has to address. Especially young people are in a unique position, since they are at the one hand the ones who will have to deal with the challenges posed by climate change their entire lifetime and on the other hand our future decision-makers (Corner et al. 2015). Therefore, the Austrian local network aims at raising awareness and preparing young people for social, economic and ecological challenges as well as for a necessary social transformation (Stötter et al. 2016). 

In order to do so, scientists of the field of climate change education of the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) and (scientific) experts from different fields collaborate for one full school year with Austrian and German schools. The highlight of the collaboration is the Alpine Research Week at the end of the school year in which students and (scientific) experts meet in a high Alpine mountain area to jointly trace climate change in different fields.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and governmental regulations, only one school got the possibility to do research with scientists in the mountains in 2021. For the other schools the UIBK team planned alternative research weeks on-site of the schools, as well as online modules to do research on the interaction between climate change and glacier retreat. Consequently, 33 students, three teachers and ten (scientific) experts went to the city of Schladming to jointly do research about climate change.

Students resting on the wood. Photo
Analyzing the climate-friendly “Jause”. Photo: Susanne Kubisch

Inquiry-based learning in the Alpine Research Week

At the first day, the students had to get up really early to reach the first cableway up to the Dachstein glacier. At the glacier they were supported by a scientist in the field of mountain hydrology, mass and energy balance and climatology. For half a day, the students did research on glacier retreat and an albedo experiment (see photo 1). The other half of the day, students hiked through a diverse landscape, characterized by pure nature on the one hand and by cableways and hotels on the other hand. In this module – the environmental ethic module – students did emotional mapping and philosophized about the relationship between human and nature and the impact of the latter on climate change.

On the second day, students observed the highly touristic urban landscape of Schladming from the top of a high building, comparing it with pictures of the past. In the following they built hypothesis and research questions about urban development and climate change and collected data by means of interviews and observations. The second half of the day, the students met at the top of the mountain with a nutrition expert. At the top, they ate their “Jause” (Austrian for “snack”), which the students already bought before, getting the instruction to buy a climate-friendly snack. Jointly with the expert, they analyzed the labels of their snacks and evaluated and discussed the climate-friendliness of the products.

Adapting to and mitigating climate change

After four days of inquiry-based learning in a real-world learning setting, the students met the technical director of the cableways and the director of the department of habitat and product development of the tourism agency of Schladming to jointly discuss about still open questions. Both experts gave detailed insight how the cableways and the tourism agency in Schladming adapt to and mitigate climate change for achieving a sustainable future.



  1. Corner, Adam; Roberts, Olga; Chiari, Sybille; Völler, Sonja; Mayrhuber, Elisabeth S.; Mandl, Sylvia; Monson, Kate (2015): How do young people engage with climate change? The role of knowledge, values, message framing, and trusted communicators. In: WIREs Clim Change 6 (5), S. 523–534. DOI: 10.1002/wcc.353.
  2. Stötter, Johann; Keller, Lars; Lütke-Spatz, Lara; Oberrauch, Anna; Körfgen, Annemarie; Kuthe, Alina (2016): Kompetent in die Zukunft : Die Forschungs-Bildungs-Kooperation zur Klimawandelbildung k.i.d.Z.21 und k.i.d.Z.21-Austria. In: GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society 25 (3), S. 214–216. DOI: 10.14512/gaia.25.3.19.
By Susanne Kubisch
Published May 11, 2022 3:50 PM - Last modified May 12, 2022 9:58 AM
Trær og solskinn

Blogging for transformational change

The SEAS blog focuses on current research and activities in the intersection between scientific literacy, open schooling and sustainability challenges when students collaborate with families and stakeholders from civil society and industry in becoming agents of community well-being.