New Jersey is the first state to require climate change be taught across the curriculum, not just in science
What it is: The state Department of Environmental Protection shared a resource to help teachers incorporate climate-change into their classes. The document provides background on the subject and makes it possible to meet the state’s new standards for addressing the issue at all grade levels.
What it says: The guide focuses on what scientists have already learned about climate change; for example, that greenhouse gas emissions are leading to rising global temperatures. It also describes how climate change affects New Jersey residents, focusing on health, water supply and quality, storms and flooding, animals and ecosystems and food sources.
What it actually says: “As a teacher, you are tasked with helping the next generation of leaders prepare for the environmental challenges of the future. By incorporating climate change education across our New Jersey Student Learning Standards, your classroom discussions can inspire students to think critically and develop solutions to our climate crisis.”
Who it’s for: The guide is designed for all teachers, but it may be particularly helpful for those who don’t teach science and may not have a firm background in climate change, according to a news release from the department. In New Jersey, teachers are required to teach climate change in world languages, health and physical education, visual and performing arts and other subjects. It is the first such statewide requirement in the country.
Why now? This week is Climate Week in New Jersey, giving people an opportunity to learn about the impacts of climate change and how they can take action. First lady Tammy Murphy and state Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette kicked off the week by announcing the release of the guidance document. The DEP this week announced its own strategic plan for addressing climate-change threats over the next several decades.
A little context: In 2020, the state Board of Education adopted learning standards that require schools to teach about climate change across content areas in K-12 schools, not just in science classes. The standards aim to teach students about what causes climate change, how it impacts local and global communities and how they can practice sustainability. They first went into effect in the 2022-2023 school year.
What makes New Jersey different: New Jersey is the first state in the nation to adopt such standards. The state also faces some higher-than-average effects of climate change compared with the rest of the country and the world, according to the report.
Commissioner’s words: “Climate education is imperative as the planet experiences the rapidly worsening effects of climate change. New Jersey is on the front lines, facing some of the worst impacts of global warming,” LaTourette said in the press release. “The young people sitting in classrooms today will be the leaders in the continuing battle against the climate crisis. Together with educators across the state, we must prepare them to fully understand the science of climate change, the way it is reshaping our lives, and the steps they can take to prepare for and mitigate its impacts.”
Where do the guidelines come from? The documents summarize two recent state reports on climate change, the 2020 New Jersey Scientific Report on Climate Change and the 2022 Health Addendum: Climate Change Impacts on Health and Communities.
In the schools: The guidance document includes a QR code with links to more resources. The department can continue adding more lesson plans and resources as they become available.
Teaching kindergartners: The recommended lesson plans include a range of topics and subject areas for virtually every grade. For the youngest students, one lesson plan includes how climate may impact fish and other marine life.
Teaching middle school: The lessons grow more sophisticated as the grades advance, including ones that address issues of racism and social justice as they relate to climate change. One middle school lesson plan is titled: “Redlining, Tree Equity, and Environmental Racism.”
Source: NJ Spotlight News