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.
Public comment by Coral Lin (NNHS Class of 2021) –
School Committee Meeting, Jan 13, 2020
Hi, my name is Coral Lin and I’m a junior at Newton North. First of all, I would like to thank the effort and support from the School Committee and the School Sustainability Work Group to create sustainable standards for our schools. These are important steps that must be taken to tackle the climate crisis here in Newton and set an example for other school systems in the state and country.
Speaking of the climate crisis, I’d like to talk about how this emergency has affected Newton Public Schools students. For an English paper I wrote this fall, I asked my friends how hearing about the “climate crisis” makes them feel, and they told me that it made them feel hopeless, small, scared, overwhelmed, and “like death is upon me.” The other day, my friend at Newton South told me that she overheard a classmate saying, “It doesn’t matter anyways because we’re all going to die because of climate change”.
My generation is increasingly anxious about the world’s future, but many feel paralyzed into inaction. Can we even blame young people for not wanting to take action against something they feel powerless to solve? Yet, we both have the solutions to solve climate change and also depend on young people to lead help this challenge. This problem could be solved if students were educated not only on the causes and effects of climate change, but how we can work together to find and implement solutions. I urge you to go home and think about how much you and your children, your nieces and nephews, and our Newton students truly know about climate change. Does it make you feel empowered to act, or discouraged? Please contemplate deeply while considering implementing comprehensive K-12 climate education in our schools. Thank you.
School Committee Meeting, Jan 13, 2020
Looking at the State frameworks for science (which is the subject area with the most obvious entry point for discussions about climate change), it’s not until 8th grade that teachers are expected to explicitly cover climate change. In fact, the Massachusetts science curriculum frameworks for Grade 3 require that students learn about climates around the world, but do not need to tie this to global warming: “An understanding of climate change is not expected in state assessment” (2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework).
As we all know, if a topic is not going to be on MCAS then it often moves to the bottom of the priorities list given how tight classroom learning time is. Therefore, any coverage of this extremely important issue before 8th grade or at the K-12 level in subject areas other than science happens primarily because a teacher brings the topic up on his/her own.
However, it doesn’t need to be this way – and it shouldn’t be. The attached document provides a quick look at some of the ways we can do a better job educating Newton students in climate science from kindergarten up through the end of high school. These are just a few of the possible entry points for discussing climate change – many more exist. Please note that these entry points are all directly tied to what teachers are already doing. This is not about putting aside what’s already in place to teach something new – it’s about refocusing the lens we use when implementing the curriculum standards.
In order to be successful with this, teachers will need support from the district. In a 2019 NPR/Ispos national poll, over 80% of parents support teaching about climate change; that number is even larger for teachers, with 86% of them in favor. So why doesn’t it happen?
The main reason cited by teachers is that climate change is their outside subject area. Yet our lives are not silos in which we only use one skill at one time. We tap into multiple bodies of knowledge simultaneously. Climate change is impacting all of us every day – it should be part of every subject area.
The second listed reason given by teachers for not teaching climate change is that students are too young. I challenge this assumption based on my own experiences working with young people. Feel free to ask my 4th grade Girl Scouts troop if they think they’re too young to learn about global warming and I will bet most of them already have strong opinions on this topic.
The 3rd and 4th barriers teacher list fall under the purview of the Newton School Committee and School Department: teachers don’t know enough about climate change and they don’t have sufficient materials and resources to teach about it effectively.
We are asking the school department to provide educators at the K-12 level with the materials, resources, and training to include climate science in their work with students. Teachers also need planning time with their peers to develop substantive lessons on this topic.
For this to be impactful, funds for curriculum development and teacher training will need to be allocated in the upcoming budget. I know the budget is tight but we need to stop making excuses for why we as a nation and a community are not confronting the climate emergency head on.
Newton students created an online petition asking for Climate Change Education in Newton Schools. If you would like to support, please visit Change.org.
See the petition below.
Climate change is the most pressing emergency facing our earth. As habitats are destroyed, natural disasters become worse, and millions of people are left without food and water, finding solutions to the warming of our planet is imperative.
In a single semester, 9 million students in the United States were forced to miss school because of a natural disaster. Students experience the results of climate change on a first hand basis everyday, yet we lack the proper education to understand its causes, effects, and solutions. For example, a third of the United States population incorrectly believes that global warming and our current changing climate is due to natural causes, not the result of human action.
Today’s students are the future of innovation and leadership: we need the knowledge and resources to create, provide, and implement solutions to fix the greatest challenge of our generation. Though climate change has been an issue for decades, it has gained much needed attention and awareness in recent years, as the issue has escalated to a crisis. The effects of climate change are already becoming apparent, and we want to gain the knowledge needed to act. We are reading about weather events, watching young activists such as Greta Thunberg strike every week, perhaps attending the climate march, but we don’t have the standardized, encompassing curriculum necessary for such an important topic.
Some students grow up knowing about our deteriorating environment, others do not. Some teachers focus heavily on ecology and biodiversity, or the environmental movement and sustainability laws, others do not. Our schools should have a standard curriculum, bridging learning gaps to help all students reach the same level of knowledge.
Newton Public Schools has always been a trailblazer, and this issue is no different. Newton schools must uphold our district’s commitment to leading efforts towards equity and excellence in education by teaching students about climate change. Without education, it is easy to become apathetic or overwhelmed by the realities of climate change. Instead, we must be equipped with knowledge of the solutions that exist.
By signing my name, I believe that Newton Public Schools should include comprehensive mandated curricula about climate change starting in elementary school and continuing throughout middle and high school. I ask the Newton School Committee and Superintendent to take the following actions:
- Provide teachers with resources and materials related to climate change for all departments and grade levels
- Develop climate change curriculum modules that can be embedded within the current curriculum at appropriate points
- Offer teachers professional development opportunities to deepen their own knowledge about climate change
- Encourage and allow for teachers to develop lessons, with their peers, related to climate change during curriculum planning time.
Leiserowitz, A., Smith, N. & Marlon, J.R. (2010) Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change. Yale University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
Our Daily Planet, April 22, 2019: Climate Change Education Not Making the Grade
You can also support the Brookline’s students petition here: “Ask Brookline School Committee to Add Climate Change to Curriculum“