About You and Your Work

Your bio:

Claire Anderson is executive director and co-founder of Ripple Effect. She taught elementary math and science at KIPP Central City Primary School for 7 years and was a curriculum fellow for KIPP New Orleans. During that time, she also served as a science instructional coach. Her curriculum work includes yearlong curriculum for elementary mathematics and NGSS-aligned science, as well as water literacy curriculum for Ripple Effect and Station 15, a documentary film about New Orleans’s water issues. In 2019, she helped develop a teacher-facing curriculum for KIPP Schools, which serves over 40,000 students nationwide. Currently, she is serving as an education consultant for the Obama Presidential Center. Previously, she worked for the New York Department of Education, and in project management and business development for museum exhibition design firms.

Project name:

Ripple Effect

One-line project summary:

Empower teachers working on the front lines of environmental change to meet the science educational needs of tomorrow.

Present your project.

We seek to use the disruption to the status quo created by the Next Generation Science Standards and the lack of curricula addressing social and ecological dimensions of climate change to provide teachers in coastal communities with the pedagogical tools they need to tackle both of these system-level challenge at once.

In doing so, we can reach the majority of students in climate-vulnerable areas and systematically transform the next generation's relation to a rapidly changing world through a shared vision of water literacy.

Through this work, we want to foster a new generation of water literate leaders, inculcated not in a sociopolitical ideology or agenda, but in rigorous scientific inquiry and a concern for the world around them. We can cultivate leaders in the very same coastal communities that have the least exposure to science and are most likely to be displaced by rising waters in their own lifetimes.

What specific problem are you solving?

As sea levels rise, communities and ecosystems in coastal regions are increasingly imperiled by the human activities and systems meant to underpin them. Climate-related water issues, such as flooding and coastal land-loss, disproportionately threaten inhabitants of already vulnerable neighborhoods. 

Frequently, children in these neighborhoods attend underfunded public schools where teachers often have less experience and science education than their counterparts in better-resourced systems. 

Now the bar has been raised even higher with the adoption of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS call for inquiry-based pedagogy, which requires teachers to not only know science concepts deeply, but to anticipate the multitude of ways students might explore and build accurate understandings of these concepts for themselves. This difficulty is compounded further by tricky climate topics that resist mastery as research expands every year. Considering that less experienced teachers are disproportionately assigned to schools where the vast majority of students qualify as low-income, the true brunt of the gap between the theory and practice of NGSS is being borne by children living in poverty.

Consequently, future generations face novel water-related risks without novel systems for addressing them.

What is your project?

Ripple Effect develops standards-aligned science curricula about real communities impacted by climate-related water challenges, then provides in-depth teacher training programs that prepare teachers to teach this curriculum with fidelity. 

We also recognize the environmental challenges are too immense, and the needs of our students and teachers are too complex, for any single organization to fulfill this vision alone. For these reasons, we propose water literacy as a framework for region-specific environmental education, which can be applied to other coastal communities throughout the United States.

Our resulting approach synthesizes best practices in science education, transdisciplinary collaboration, and user-centric design to reimagine K-12 teacher training as a total investment in teachers' abilities as learners and agents of change.

Our strategies:

1) Partnerships: We partner with science, education, and humanities research organizations to inform the vision and content of region-specific water literacy education.

2) Socio-ecological curriculum: Students investigate the scientific and social systems of water through a multitude of professional and personal perspectives.

3) Data-driven iteration: We use data from scholarly research, classrooms, and field stations to continually inform our content and improve impact.

Who does your project serve, and in what ways is the project impacting their lives?

We serve teachers and children attending public schools, particularly Title 1 schools, which are defined as having at least 40% of students from low-income households. In New Orleans, where we piloted our work, 83% of school-age children fall in that bracket. We are currently broadening our focus from urban New Orleans to include the larger region of coastal Louisiana, but we imagine engaging with other climate-vulnerable regions given sea-level rise projections.

If we are successful, students living in our most climate-vulnerable coastal regions will receive culturally-sustaining, standards-aligned water literacy instruction from prepared, passionate, and knowledgeable teachers in every grade, from kindergarten through 12th grade. As a result, at least 50% of students who attend under-resourced, high-poverty public schools are water literate by the time they graduate from high school, educated and empowered with the knowledge, skills, and ethical grounding they need to meet climate-related water challenges head on.

Which dimension of The Elevate Prize does your project most closely address?

Elevating issues and their projects by building awareness and driving action to solve the most difficult problems of our world

How did you come up with your project?


Why are you passionate about your project?

In 2012, I moved to New Orleans to teach elementary students in a public charter school. Every year, our principal asked us a question: “What are schools for?” 

I knew the context. The facade of post-Katrina education reform was cracking, and a movement to redefine the region’s relationship to water was just beginning. By increasing my students’ achievement scores, wasn’t I answering his question? 

The day my reeducation began, my students were reading aloud from an article that described our situation starkly: due to manmade interventions, New Orleans was sinking further below sea-level, as sea-level was rising. The students went silent. Kaliyah, a fourth grader, called out “Why hasn’t anyone told us this before?”  

The magnitude of water-related challenges my students would face in the course of their lives came into sharp focus, as did the fact that they were not being given the tools to address these challenges.

Why are you well-positioned to deliver this project?

For seven years, I served as math and science teacher, a curriculum writer, and a science instructional coach at KIPP Central City Primary. I oversaw the professional development of other teachers and helped pilot the region’s transition to inquiry- and phenomenon-based science instruction. As a KIPP Foundation curriculum fellow, I helped to develop a year-long science curriculum for their nationwide network, which serves approximately 40,000 students. While teaching, I co-founded Ripple Effect and grew the program to reach multiple schools and teachers across Southeast Louisiana. Since transitioning to full-time directorship of Ripple Effect, I have overseen the transition to a 501c3 with an active board, a research-based theory of change, ongoing collaborations with the Louisiana Department of Education, and the creation of a regional consortium dedicated to water literacy. I currently advise the exhibition design team for the future Obama Presidential Center on civics education.

Provide an example of your ability to overcome adversity.


Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.


How long have you been working on your project?


Where are you headquartered?

New Orleans, LA, USA

What type of organization is your project?

More About Your Work

Describe what makes your project innovative.

We envision a new type of science student: someone who can balance data with observation, ethics, values, and know-how. To foster their learning, we are laying a new pipeline within the existing system, featuring these innovations:

  1. Channel of communication between research entities and formal education. With it, we curate socio-ecological content about water, update curriculum to reflect new research and community issues, and return classroom feedback to researchers.

  2. A socio-ecological framework – rarely used in K-12 – that guides all our programs, and which calls for full integration of scientific content, ethics, and praxis of real-world environmental challenges.

  3. Curricular units that are anchored in stories of present-day communities navigating a climate-related water issue, as told by the residents themselves, and the scientists/ practitioners whose work intersects. We are drawing from models in folklore, documentary filmmaking, and journalism to develop ethical storytelling processes.

  4. Digital teacher training tool that integrates content knowledge acquisition and pedagogical training into a single, adaptive learning experience. Few products, and none in climate education, attempt to do both.

The digital teacher training tool—currently in research and concept design—will address the diversity of teacher needs, while also granting teachers agency to customize the curriculum to meet their students’ unique needs. Through personalized content knowledge, tutorials on inquiry-based instructional moves, and customizable, socio-ecological water literacy curricula, Ripple Effect will be able to “meet teachers where they are” and grow a community of water literacy educators who are change agents in their classrooms, schools, and communities.

What is your theory of change?


1)  COALESCE REGIONAL CAPACITY: Cultivate partnerships with field stations, research-based science and education organizations, and individual scholars to develop a regional vision for water literacy, define its educational goals, and detail actions needed to scale this approach. Integrate research findings with teacher and student feedback.

2) GIVE TEACHERS A RESEARCHED, RELEVANT, FORWARD-LOOKING CURRICULUM: Create original, standards-aligned curricula that, in keeping with socio-ecological concepts, illuminates the ethics, content, and praxis associated with real-world water issues. Anchor curricular materials in real-world phenomena relevant to the region and its students. Elevate the voices of real community members and practitioners living and working in the region. Systematize the development of new content based on the latest scientific research to keep curriculum up to date. 

3) BUILD ON TEACHERS' OWN INSTRUCTIONAL STRENGTHS: Help teachers faithfully implement our curriculum by integrating content knowledge, instructional moves, and curriculum building into a single learning experience. Deliver the learning experience through a digital tool grounded in adaptive learning and user-centric interactive design. Learn from teachers' real-world experiences by capturing their feedback and channeling it toward improvement of the digital tool.

Short-term outcomes:

  • Increased investment in water literacy; improved connection between scientific research and K-12; greater demand for in-school water-literacy science education
  • Increased teacher content knowledge; improved instruction on water and climate issues.

  • Increased student knowledge of social and scientific dimensions of climate-related water challenges; increased fluency in practices needed to tackle these challenges.

Longterm outcomes:

  • Students receive regular, high-quality science instruction from prepared and knowledgeable teachers, every year, from kindergarten through 12th grade. 
  • A critical mass of students attending Title 1 schools are water literate by the time they graduate from high school.


Such outcomes will not only widen the pipeline of minority and low-income students into science, policy, and engineering, it will build scientific foundations and socio-political consciousness of students from all walks of life. As adults, these students are more likely to champion innovative solutions that grow from community needs and knowledge, and as a result, engage environmental justice. This will lead to improved economic, health, and sustainability outcomes for residents of coastal communities.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your project address?

  • 4. Quality Education
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13. Climate Action

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United States

How many people does your project currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

To date, Ripple Effect has introduced water literacy to over 15,000 teachers, students and families. Our curriculum and fellowship program has produced 40 Fellows and over 220,000 hours of NGSS-aligned, in-school instruction to 5,000 students in Louisiana. We also train teachers on curriculum design and inquiry-based science instruction for the Louisiana Department of Education, earning perfect scores from participants.

When our digital curriculum and teacher-training tool is up and running, we hope to support 30 new teachers in a pilot study, then scale the program to reach 100 teachers in Year 1, 500 teachers in Year 2, and 3,000 teachers by Year 3. By Year 5, we hope our program will serve 5,000 teachers.

Solution Team

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