For the very first Meet Me on Planet 3 podcast episode, Deanna Hoffman, a parent of two young boys, an experienced science educator, and an environmental advocate, interviews Eve Downing. Eve is a nineteen-year-old college student and environmental advocate from Alaska. She has been working nonstop since high school to take care of her home in the Arctic tundra.
School Connections members wrote together a letter to the Newton School Committee urging that Climate Education is considered a District-Wide Goal. Read the letter below and see PDF version here.
The letter was sent on May 8, 2021 to all School Committee members, including Mayor Fuller and Superintendent Fleishman. A copy was also sent to city and school officials: Liam Hurley NPS CFAO), Stephanie Gilman (NPS Director of Planning, Project Management & Sustainability), Eva Thompson (Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education), Toby N. Romer (Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education), Ann Berwick (Newton’s co-Director of Sustainability) and Sunwoo Kahng (Newton’s Sustainable Materials Management Commission Chair).
Please make Climate Education a district-wide goal
Dear School Committee Members, Superintendent Fleishman, Mayor Fuller,
“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
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 (CAP), which calls for substantive decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years. In a first step toward rapid implementation of the CAP, the City hired an energy coach to help residents adopt cleaner and more sustainable domestic and transportation practices in their personal lives. 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 as needed. If Climate Education is a district goal, more of our citizenry will be prepared to address the climate crisis and help the city meet the CAP goals.
Climate education is not solely a topic to be addressed by science teachers. 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. As Ibram X. Kendi says in his book discussed in Newton last summer, How to Be an Antiracist, “do-nothing climate policy is racist policy.” The laudable focus of Newton Public Schools on anti-racism, social equity, human dignity, and social action can easily be viewed through a lens of climate education.
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.
As the city implements its Climate Action Plan (CAP) and the school district works to improve school facilities, we urge the School Committee to 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. With the CAP, the City seeks to “equip our residents and businesses with the tools and support needed to make climate-conscious choices that reduce the community’s GHG emissions while also leading by example.” This engagement and education of Newton’s citizens will be even more effective if the schools provided resources and included all of our teachers and students in the discussion. In doing so, we will be grooming the future role models and leaders of the change that will sustain the lives of our younger citizens.
Please support the goals of Newton’s CAP and the needs of the next generation by offering instructional opportunities for students and staff aiming to infuse more climate education into existing curricula.
Please contact us with further questions at [email protected].
By Ahona Dam, 10th Grader at Newton South High School –
Being a youth leader for the 4C Tree Project and a volunteer intern at Green Newton, I have learned a lot about city initiatives and the importance of trees in our environment. However, I don’t know if I would have been as aware of our planet or our community’s efforts had I not joined Green Newton.
We need climate education in our schools because education is one of the most important ways people can be more aware. I think it is important to explain climate change and its causes in a detailed way to ensure that students understand the rapid changes that are occurring on our planet. Every year in science class we briefly go over climate change however we barely spend a week learning about the causes and effects that climate change has on communities.
Climate education doesn’t have to only be taught in science classes. Climate change has affected so many people around the world and has left some as climate refugees. We can begin to learn more about this in history and understand how certain countries are dealing with climate refugees.
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.
I definitely don’t know everything about climate change, however I want to be able to concretely
understand the science behind greenhouse gas emissions and learn about how climate change is affecting communities around the world. I want to know about specific innovations that have been created. I want to be part of the solution by educating myself on the problem and then take specific actions that will benefit my community.
This essay was presented at the May 10th, 2021 School Committee Meeting as a public comment.
If you also believe that Climate Change and its solutions should be more widely discussed and taught at Newton Public Schools, join us on asking the Schools Committee to include Climate Education as a District-Wide Goal in 2021.
We will meet this Thursday, April 15, at 4pm to discuss this and other sustainability and climate related topics. More information here.
The School Committee, with NPS’s superintendent and the City’s Mayor, is responsible for deciding each year what goals will guide the work of administrators, faculty, and staff as they “provide high quality academic opportunities for students and create welcoming and supportive school communities.”
In 2019, Green Newton School Connections petitioned for NPS to include Sustainability in schools and the School Committee included the topic in the FY20 Systemwide Goals, initiating the School Sustainability Working Group and a managerial goal focused on sustainability for facilities and transportation. Following our advocacy, NPS hired a Director of Planning, Project Management and Sustainability in February 2020.
Now is time to move on to the next step and include Climate Educations as a systemwide goal.
The city of Newton has committed to dramatically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and even hired an Energy Coach to guide residents in adopting cleaner and more sustainable energy upgrades for their home and transportation. Our students can help!!! They are part of the solution to solve our existential climate crisis – if we give them, and our educators, the necessary tools, support and resources.
The School Committee will be discussing the 2021-2022 Systemwide Goals in the next months. It’s time for us to ask them to include Climate Education as a goal.
Are you interested in advancing Climate Education in Newton Schools? We have a group dedicated to this work. We gather resources, curriculum ideas, and learn about how other communities are implementing Climate Education for K-12. This year we would like to offer Professional Development on the topic for Newton teachers of all grades and disciplines.
In an effort to promote more Climate Education in Newton schools, earlier this year we created a survey for teachers. We wanted to find out what is already being taught in the district and what can be done to strengthen climate literacy and justice for our students.
The survey was launched in March and due to Covid-19 and the closures of schools we didn’t promote it as much as we had originally planned. We hope to build on this effort once school commences in the Fall. For now, these are the initial results.
Given that many survey respondents expressed interest in training focused on climate education, we compiled a list of low-cost, flexible summer professional development options.
If you have not taken the survey yet, please take it here: CLIMATE EDUCATION SURVEY
Climate Education Survey 2020
Survey data from 03/09/2020 to 04/03/2020
Number of respondents: 84
We found a few patterns in the answers:
- Climate Change is not part of the curriculum and it’s hard to find time/resources to incorporate the topic and space/time to teach it.
- Many are interested in learning more but lack time, knowledge, resources, ideas for activities, projects, etc.
- Some teachers bring up the topic in passing or in a few lessons, ranging from statistics and environmental poetry to music and the Industrial Revolution.
- It never occurred to teach it.
- Interested in ways to support the staff and facilitate trainings.
- It is difficult to fit in anything more to the required curriculum.
- I try to practice energy conservation and recycling habits with students in the classroom – concrete steps they can understand to contribute to efforts against climate change.
- Climate change is a politically charged topic.
- Kids are already cynical about being preached at.
- Indirectly it is taught in terms of how we treat the environment, our spaces.
- It doesn’t often apply unless a given project connects to it.
- I have not made it a priority to incorporate climate change into my lessons (though I am interested in finding ways to do this).
- This topic is dear to me.
- It’s a topic on many kids’ minds.
- Students bring it up for discussion depending on what is in the curriculum.
- It relates to health of our people; health of our planet.
- I don’t have a lot of knowledge on how to teach the topic, the current curriculums are pretty packed as it is.
Original post from Green Newton, June 8, 2020 –
Green Newton stands with organizations here in Newton and across the country in reaffirming that Black Lives Matter. We are outraged, like so many others, by the recurrent murders of Black people by the police and vigilantes in our country — most recently, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
It is clear to us that institutionalized racism has been the underlying cause of the deaths of many people of color in our country and around the world.
Climate justice and racial justice are inextricably linked. The ravages of polluted water, land, and air, leading to illness, injury and early death are far greater in populations of people of color. Racially insensitive policies have long negatively impacted housing, education and medical care in Massachusetts.
We aspire to think globally and act locally as we work to better understand the pervasive, systemic nature of injustice within all of our institutions, including our schools and police departments. We strive to bring that understanding to our work to help heal the planet and make our community safe and welcoming for all.
More information: climategen.org
Time: July 22–24, 2020, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm EDT
Content: 20 Hours of Continuing Education. Climate change solutions are made in the classroom, at home, and within our communities. Let’s make the most out of our current situation by reimagining what education can be and how we can build opportunities for climate change solutions together!
Green Newton School Connections is advocating for more Climate Education in Newton schools.
We invite all NPS teachers, from grades K-12, from every subject area, to answer this 5-minute survey. We hope to better understand what is already being taught in the district and what can be done to strengthen climate literacy and justice for our students.
Please spread the word, ask colleagues and teachers to respond.
Climate Education Survey Link: https://forms.gle/64BYNz92yVVHixmy6
More at: Climate Education Advocacy
NPR/Ipsos poll, April 2019: Teachers on Climate Change
Green Newton is one of the guests of the “Climate Change Teach-in”, on Feb. 12. The event is organized by the NSHS Global Program and invites students to learn from environmental leaders and activists including:
Mass Audubon, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, The Sunrise Movement, Newton South Students, The Environmental Voters Project, Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW), Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Citizens Climate Lobby, The City of Newton, A former Obama Administration official, Greenovate Boston, Green Newton and more.
More about the NSHS Global Program here.