Fall in Review

Smithsonian Science Education Center attended Climate Week in New York City with representatives from Smithsonian including SERC, STRI, SSEC, and NMNH.

During the week’s events, the Smithsonian Science Education Center brought K-12 sustainable development education to a global stage and joined the discussion on advancing the Global Goals. Some of the events included:

  • A panel held by Innovation 4.4, a group convening family offices, governments, and corporate leaders to accelerate the deployment of solutions most needed to create better futures for all. Founded by impact thought leader, investor, and entrepreneur Lina Constantinovici, Innovation 4.4 is an official partner to the United Nations Association. Director of SSEC Carol O’Donnell joined the panel to discuss SSEC’s impact and alignment to this mission.
  • Director Carol O’Donnell sat on a NEST/Climate Week panel on Climate Action through community focused philanthropy. The Nest Climate Campus hosted a dynamic three-day event featuring thought-leading demonstrations of climate action and an array of workshops and roundtable discussions, and community engagement activities that provided rich networking opportunities for attendees.
  • Smithsonian Science Education Center’s UNGA/Climate Week Event. In this intimate, high-level Roundtable focused on Perspectives in Climate Education, SSEC examined data from two recent global surveys of young people and educators, assessing strengths and gaps in the landscape. Participants engaged in conversation about positioning youth to lead in achieving the SDGs, from their vantage points as organizational leaders. The event was co-hosted by the Smithsonian, Ernst & Young, and the Diplomatic Courier, and took place on Thursday, September 21st from 11:30-2:30 at the Cushman and Wakefield Offices at 1290 Avenue of the Americas, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10104. Speakers from the Smithsonian included:
    • Dr. Carol O’Donnell, Director, Smithsonian Science Education Center
    • Ana Spalding, Director of Resilience & Sustainability, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
    • Carla Easter, Assistant Director for Education, Outreach, and Visitor Experience, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Dr. O’Donnell attends climate week in New York City and participates in a roundtable discussion on sustainability.

Carol and the Thompsons

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Smithsonian Science Education Center launched the report, “Educating for Sustainable Development: Perspectives of U.S. and Global Educators.” The new global survey revealed that teachers in the U.S. are just as likely as their global peers to believe in the importance and value of teaching about sustainable development, but that this topic is less likely to be included in their curriculum standards. U.S. teachers were also more likely than their global counterparts to report lacking the support, time and expertise needed to incorporate sustainable development into their classroom lessons.

Smithsonian Science Education Center's NESST Youth Ambassador Program: On Saturday, October 7, the Smithsonian Science Education Center hosted its first convening of the 2023-2024 Network for Emergent Socio-Scientific Thinking (NESST) Youth Ambassadors. With 76 applications, the Smithsonian Science Education Center recruited 22 high school students (ages 14-18) that represent 10 countries (Mexico, Malaysia, Argentina, Moldova, Turkey, United States, France, Mongolia, Lebanon, Uruguay) and 10 U.S. states (Texas, Washington DC, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Georgia, Oregon, Florida, Indiana, Missouri) to serve on a year-long Youth Ambassador team to be advisors, supporters, collaborators, and implementors of NESST work. With opening remarks from Dr. Carol O'Donnell, this first session outlined the structure of the program, supported students in creating a shared understanding of NESST, and provided an opportunity for the group to think further about what they envision for their future and how this group can take steps to achieve that shared transformative, sustainable future. The first key activity of the group will be to create a "Call to Action" video that is planned to be showcased at COP28, highlighting what they want adults and global leaders to know at COP28. Dr. Ellen Stofan will discuss this program at a federal-agency wide COP28 youth-led event in the US Center, along with John Kerry

Carol O’Donnell was a featured panelist on the Setting the Pace on Climate & Environmental Education in Schools Panel, organized by Monash University at COP28: During this panel, Carol gave an overview of the state of education for sustainable development, and discussed principles and pedagogy of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals Project, and shared student engineered solutions to local sustainability projects, developed by youth who have utilized the guides. 

Carol O’Donnell was a featured panelist on the Passage of Water: the Interconnectness of Freshwater and Climate Change, organized by Google at COP28. During this panel, Carol discussed how the Smithsonian brings complex topics like freshwater access and equity to life for young people, through SSEC’s assets and programs for educators. 

Carol O’Donnell was a featured panelist on the Empowering Youth Engagement in Climate Action, Solutions, and Policy Addressing Global Challenges, organized by the Youth Environmental Alliance in Higher Education at COP28: During this panel, Carol gave an overview of the state of education for sustainable development, and discussed principles and pedagogy of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals Project, and shared student engineered solutions to local sustainability projects, developed by youth who have utilized the guides. 

Carol O’Donnell (SSEC) and Steve Canty (SERC) engaged directly with youth leaders at COP28, brought to the conference by the Centre for Global Education. These youth leaders shared their manifesto and discussed their climate leadership efforts within their communities. Carol and Steve shared about the work of SSEC and SERC, as well as their personal journeys into sustainability leadership. 

A word cloud in the shape of a pair of hands gently clasping the planet Earth – representing the Conference of the Parties 28 in Dubai, U.A.E.

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About the Author

Johnny McInerney
Executive Assistant



Johnny McInerney is the Executive Office Manager for the Smithsonian Science Education Center. Johnny was born and raised in Golden, Colorado – right where Denver hits the Rockies. He attended the University of Colorado at Boulder (sko’ Buffs!) graduating Summa Cum Laude in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. In 2018, he jumped onto the re-election campaign on Congressman Ed Perlmutter of Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, and after a successful campaign was fortunate to have Rep. Perlmutter offer him the Staff Assistant position in his legislative office on Capitol Hill here in Washington, DC. After two and a half years Johnny transitioned roles to become the Scheduler for Congressman Donald Norcross of Southern New Jersey. While on the Hill, Johnny was elected to a board membership of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association as the 2021 Director of Community Service and Engagement. After he departed the Hill, Johnny worked for a think tank downtown for just under a year before he found himself lucky enough to take this incredible opportunity with the Smithsonian. 

Johnny is passionate about a lot of things: food, film, roller coasters, oil painting, video games, pets, and people…just to name a few!