GN School Connections asks NPS for more Climate Education

On Monday, May 10, members of School Connections participated in the School Committee meeting to urge Newton Public Schools to make Climate Education a District-Wide Goal.

Several high school students voiced their opinions during public comment: Ahona Dam, from NSHS; Brontë Gow, Sophia Murphy and Betina Kreiman, from NNHS; and Evan Michaelli, from Brimmer and May. 

Our School Connections group was represented by Deanna Hoffman and Joana Canedo, co-chairs, who also sent a letter written by the group to the School Committee members, including Mayor Fuller and Superintendent Fleishman. Read the letter here

Below quotes from students and teachers about the importance of Climate Education in schools. 

“If students aren’t educated about the cause of climate change then they won’t understand how to combat it. With climate education, students will be prepared to have conversations with their parents/relatives and they will feel more comfortable to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. I believe that when there is a global problem, such as climate change, individuals have to be aware and educated in order to understand how to remedy the problem. To solve a problem, we must start small and focus on individuals, then communities, and finally focus on a national scale.” 
Ahona Dam, NSHS Class of 2023.  Read full comment here

“Students of Newton deserve a strong education on the local ecosystem and regional climate and sustainability trends to equip them with the knowledge they need to be agents for change in the world. Newton Public Schools should offer active and interconnected science lessons that involve our tree canopy and woods when the students are in elementary school. When they learn about our city and the role that trees play in capturing carbon and providing us with clean water, they will care more about our urban forest. As the Garden City, our green spaces are part of our identity. The City should allow schools to slightly adjust their curriculums so that teachers are using their knowledge and expertise to influence the next generation to be considerate of nature and aware of the benefits of wasting less and conserving more. The teachers could include field trips to the Webster Woods, the largest contiguous forest in Newton or to other areas that are critical for capturing carbon and providing wildlife habitat in Newton to make education come to life in a way that sparks joy in our children and empowers them to better our city. ”
Elizabeth Sockewell, NSHS Class of 2019, Leader of Green Newton’s 4C Tree Project

“Climate education can, like education around race and racism, be a part of virtually any discipline at virtually any grade level, if done in an age-appropriate fashion. I urge the School Committee to dedicate itself to helping teachers find powerful ways to incorporate climate education into all levels of schooling at NPS. Our futures, and especially the futures of our children, depend on it. As Newton has worked to support students and combat discrimination in other forms, we must now lead and help our students to fight for climate justice. ”
Andrew Thompson, NSHS teacher. Read full comment here

” We know that Climate Change is one of the most important challenges humanity will face this century and that education is key to understanding and addressing Climate Change. Additionally, in order to fulfill our mission of being an actively anti-racist district, we must educate our teachers and students on the intrinsic connections between Climate Change, Environmental Justice and Racism. I call on the Newton School Committee to make Climate Education an explicit goal for Newton Public School and to begin the process of including Climate Education more purposefully in Social Studies education.”
Jennifer Devlin, NNHS teacher. Read full comment here


Public comments from Green Newton School Connections Co-Chairs

NPS School Committee Meeting, May 10, 2021

Deanna Hoffman

I am speaking on behalf of Green Newton’s School Connections group. The city of Newton has taken an important stance in the fight to stop climate change by committing in 2020 to an ambitious Climate Action Plan, which calls for substantive decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years. An important next step is to include the Newton Public Schools in this endeavor.

With appropriate resources, district-wide professional development and support, teachers can provide students with a framework in which to begin their practice of a sustainable, climate-protecting lifestyle and ability to engage in climate action. Moreover, the recent long overdue high-profile BLM and other social justice movements has increased awareness of the inequitable impact of climate degradation in different communities. If Climate Education is a district goal, more of our citizenry will be prepared to address the climate crisis and climate justice and help the city meet the CAP goals.

In 2019, the School Committee supported the inclusion of Sustainability as a district-wide goal and thanks to it NPS now has an active Schools Sustainability Working Group, a new Director of Sustainability and a focus on sustainable facilities and transportation. It is time to be explicit about the inclusion of Climate Education in the district-wide goals. Thank you for your support.

Joana Canedo

I am here to urge that Newton Public School include Climate Education as a district-wide goal. Please consider the benefits of teaching the entire school community why and how to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the city’s goal of a carbon-neutral Newton by 2050.

We are just one city in the world. But as UNESCO says, education empowers people to change the way they think and work towards a sustainable future for all. “Education is an essential element of the global response to climate change. It helps young people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour and helps them adapt to climate change-related trends.” – Unesco
We need to include Newton Public Schools in this endeavor. Students of all ages, teachers, administrators, families, we are all in this together. Our teachers need the support and resources from the district to make climate education a reality. If climate education is a stated goal, we can find resources, time, focus to do the work that is needed to teach about this existential crisis and the actions we each of us can take to make the world more equitable, just, safe, and healthy for all.

Thanks to your support in 2019, “Sustainability” is now a district goal and we have Stephanie Gilman and the Schools Sustainability Working Group working together to improve facilities, transportation and more. We need your support again to make Climate Education a reality for all grades in our district.