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Unit Five
Facilitating Engaging Program Discussions

In the first four units we’ve focused on the role of public libraries as community centers for informal science learning, and as an essential community resource prior to and during disasters or crises. We have also learned about climate change and extreme weather events in relation to the ideas and issues explored in the program series, and have developed strategies for promoting the programs in your community.

Let’s now consider the program events themselves – how a typical program might unfold.

In this unit, you will:

  • Learn facilitation techniques to foster engaging program discussions
  • Create library services and program activities that use NOAA resources
  • Develop actionable “next steps” to promote community resiliency planning


During the program, your NOAA science partner will likely take the lead in introducing questions and providing a scientific context for extreme weather events and climate change as the discussion unfolds.

You’ll work with your science partner to co-facilitate the discussions. Many of you have probably facilitated popular book discussions or film showings. This situation will be similar, but with a focus on STEM topics and issues. Your knowledge of your community and the library patrons will be an important asset to the success of the programs.

  • Before watching the next video, download Strategies to Promote Program Discussions. As you watch the video, see how many of these strategies you see in action.
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Unit Five, Video One
Discussion Strategies


  • Review the Strategies to Promote Program Discussions document – which of those strategies did you see in the preceding clips?


You’ve now seen many clips of the program discussions in action. Consider:

  • Did you see how the questions that the science partners and librarians posed were open-ended to encourage conversation, and interaction among the program participants?
  • Did you notice if follow-up questions were used to promote expanded discussion of an idea?
  • Were there examples of the science partner and librarian listening attentively to the conversation to acknowledge the contributions of each participant?
  • Did you note how the science partner provided a quick summary of a participant’s comments or connected an idea to everyday situations, to make it relevant and more understandable?
  • Did you notice how the science partner made sure that no single person dominated the discussion and kept the focus of the discussion on the program theme?

All of these best practices can help you co-facilitate discussions in your library.

Review Strategies to Promote Program Discussions once again. Do you have other thoughts to add that will make your library discussions engaging?

This is also a good time to review the suggested discussion questions created for each program.Your NOAA science partner will be asked to download these same questions, so as you go over your program plans, you can together decide how to co-facilitate the programs.

After each program, you should spend a few minutes with your science partner to discuss what seemed to work particularly well and what might be changed to improve the upcoming programs.



We’ve probably all been in discussions that somehow go astray or even become contentious. No matter how prepared we feel, difficult situations might crop up in our program discussions. Let’s consider some tips for handling tough situations.


  • Download Handling Difficult Situations as a Facilitator and take a few moments to note any concerns you have about your role as a facilitator.
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The strategies we’ve discussed so far can be used with just about any type of library program that is designed to promote discussion. Some unique challenges may emerge in discussions about climate change and extreme weather events. The Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University studies human behaviors and decision making as it relates to climate change uncertainty and environmental risk. The Center has created a number of tools and publications to help organizations and individuals develop programs, provide resources, and communicate about these issues. You will likely find one of these publications, Connecting on Climate, developed in partnership with ecoAmerica, particularly useful as you plan and implement your programs.


  • Download Connecting on Climate and take a few moments to read through this publication.
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Unit Five, Video Two
Principles of Climate Change Communication


  • Review the Handling Difficult Situations as a Facilitator and take a few moments to note any concerns you have about your role as a facilitator of the library programs. Then share discussion scenarios with your peers in the listserv and apply some of 10 communication strategies to these scenarios.

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