Back to School, Part 3

September 5, 2023

How can you scroll past a headline like that?

The New York Times reports that “New Jersey is the first state to require that climate change be taught at all grade levels. The focus is on problem solving, not doom and gloom.”

Michelle Liwacz reading “If Sharks Disappeared,” by Lily Williams, to the class. Credit: Desiree Rios for The New York Times

“Tammy Murphy, the wife of Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, was the driving force behind the new standards. She said climate change education was vital to help students attune to the planet’s health, prepare for a new economy based on green energy and adapt to climate shifts that promise to intensify as this generation of children reaches adulthood.

But the state’s method of teaching its youngest learners about climate change arguably does something more profound: Instead of focusing on the doom and gloom, the standards are designed to help children connect with what’s going on in the natural world around them, and, crucially, learn how to solve problems.”

“Dan Cassino, a professor who directed [a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey of state residents], said it could be one of the Murphy administration’s most popular policies. That support mirrors nationwide findings that show the overwhelming majority of Americans, on both sides of the political divide, want their children to learn about climate change.”

According to NPR in this story, New Jersey requires climate change education. A year in, here’s how it’s going, “New Jersey set aside $4.5 million in grants in 2023 to support and train educators and ensure students in underserved districts also have access to climate change education. The state has appropriated another $5 million toward climate change education in its 2024 fiscal year budget, New Jersey Department of Education spokesperson Laura Fredrick said. The New Jersey Climate Education Hub also helps teachers by sharing instructional materials that educators working across different subject areas can use. Other states, like Connecticut, are trying to follow in New Jersey’s footsteps.”

Though New Jersey may be the first state to require that climate change be taught at all grade levels, Washington was the First in Nation to Bring Climate-Change Education to Classrooms.

“With ClimeTime, Washington is the first state in the US to explicitly put money toward K-12 climate change education. But nationally, at least 11 states have pending bills related to climate change education, according to the Campaign for Climate Literacy. Experts say preparing teachers will be key to successful implementation. Washington offers a model for how to fund and carry out that professional development.”

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