Teachers Voices on Climate Education

Newton Public School Teachers voice their opinion on Climate Education.

Andrew Thompson

Newton resident, parent and high school teacher

Climate change is the biggest existential threat facing humanity today – some experts have suggested that the displacements, tolls, and uncertainty of Covid-19 may look small in comparison to the worst-case climate scenarios. Further, numerous studies suggest that this decade is critical if the world is to avoid those worst-case scenarios. As a Newton resident and educator, as well as the parent of a middle school student, I’ve seen first-hand how critical it is that our children learn facts, actions, and hope around climate change. I teach a course on sustainability at Newton South, and it’s clear from my students how essential this issue is to their lives, their mental health, and their hopes for the future. Our younger residents are swimming in a confusing, disturbing sea of information about climate change – there is no insulating them from news about its effects, and we should not shirk our duty to tell our kids the truth, while also helping them uncover realistic goals and a sense of agency. Just as with racism, our kids are likely much more aware at a much younger age than we realize; just as with racism, if we don’t actively teach them the right way, they are likely to learn the wrong way. As we know too well, too, the topics of climate change and racism interweave greatly, as marginalized groups are most likely to bear the ill effects of air and water pollution, severe storms, lost homelands, and more. 

Our society broadly, and we individually, can make a difference in the fight to mitigate climate change – however, we must help our students distinguish between truth and opinion, and to have media literacy. The worst-case scenarios can be very depressing, and the disinformation or appeal to apathy can be powerful – we have to rise to the occasion and help our students know how they relate, what climate change can mean for their future, and what individual and systemic goals they can work towards. It’s a difficult balance – we want our students aware but not defeated, engaged but not crippled by guilt or fear. Many teachers want to engage in this topic further, but we can use additional support, in the form of professional development and time to collaborate, and perhaps new curriculum materials. Including climate change as a key district-wide goal for NPS is a powerful first step. 

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. 

 

Jennifer Devlin

Newton Resident, Parent and High School Teacher

As a History and Social Studies teacher I believe it is imperative that Climate Change become a key topic in Massachusetts Social Studies curriculum and I believe Newton is in a position to lead in this effort. 

The DESE History and Social Science Framework begins with a vision statement that calls for  Massachusetts students to “be prepared to make informed civic choices and assume their responsibility for strengthening equality, justice, and liberty in and beyond the United States”. I don’t see how this vision can be achieved without more meaningfully incorporating Climate Change Education in our Social Studies offerings in schools.

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.