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Evaluating the Public Climate School—A School-Based Programme to Promote Climate Awareness and Action in Students: Protocol of a Cluster-Controlled Pilot Study

Eichinger, Michael; Bechtoldt, Myriam; Bui, Inga Thao My; Grund, Julius; Keller, Jan; Lau, Ashley G.; Liu, Shuyan; Neuber, Michael; Peter, Felix; Pohle, Carina; Reese, Gerhard; Schäfer, Fabian; Heinzel, Stephan

Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft (ZTG)

Introduction: School-based programmes may promote knowledge and skills required to address climate change and better health and well-being in adolescents, yet evidence of their effectiveness is limited. In preparation for evaluating the Public Climate School, a school-based intervention to promote climate awareness and action in adolescents, we conduct a pilot study intended to assess procedures for participant recruitment, retention, and data collection, data quality issues and to provide preliminary parameter estimates to guide sample size calculations. Methods and analysis: This unblinded, cluster-controlled pilot study targets students in twelve classes from grades seven to thirteen in German public schools. Seven and five classes were allocated to the intervention and waitlist control arms, respectively. The intervention consisted of (1) live lessons on YouTube, (2) climate-related challenges of the day, (3) workshops and (4) peer exchange sessions. Waitlist control classes participated three weeks later. Measures included the proportion of students completing baseline and follow-up surveys, a comparison of baseline characteristics between students in the retained subsample and those lost to follow-up, proportions of students completing online and paper–pencil-based surveys and problems during data collection based on information reported by teachers. Data quality was assessed as proportions of missing data, associations between missingness and sociodemographic measures using logistic regression models and basic psychometric properties of scales including ceiling effects and internal consistency. Intentions to reduce one’s ecological footprint, the primary outcome, and all secondary outcomes for effect estimation were assessed one week pre- and post-intervention from November to December 2021 using items adapted from internationally used instruments and will be investigated using generalised linear mixed models and intention-to-treat analyses. Conclusions: The pilot study will lay the methodological groundwork for a large-scale cluster-randomised effectiveness and process evaluation of the Public Climate School. If proven effective and rolled out more broadly, the Public Climate School has the potential to contribute meaningfully to national climate mitigation and adaptation efforts by reaching a substantial share of adolescents in public schools, including those traditionally less involved in climate action.