2019 School Committee Question 4

4. Newton schools lack a comprehensive approach to teaching environmental topics across grades K-12. The curriculum ought to do more to educate students about the science of climate change and how it is impacting all life and ecosystems on our planet. Students should also learn about green technology innovation, in order to prepare them to work in a clean energy economy. In your view, how might the School Committee prioritize education on environmental topics in our schools?  

Please note: The responses from those who accepted our invitation to answer in writing are listed alphabetically.

Margaret Albright  |  Ruth Goldman Emily Prenner | Galina Rosenblit  |  Kathy Shields

Margaret Albright

Newton, like every district in the state, must align the curriculum to the state frameworks. This includes the state frameworks on action civics which our middle and high school students must now do.  For the past two years I’ve worked with 8th graders in the district on their Generation Citizen projects and many of them are environmental projects – food waste in the cafeteria, eliminating polystyrene, eliminating bottled water and other projects. Our students are aware and our teachers do include a great deal of teaching on environmental topics and I anticipate our science and civic standards will evolve to include more topics.

Ruth Goldman

The curriculum must meet standards set by the state and align with state frameworks.  That being said, I think School Committee could ask NPS to figure out how to better integrate climate science into all aspects of science and social studies education.  Climate change has an enormous geo-political impact which could be called out more specifically and science classes can likely better connect core classes to what is happening the planet.  I think many teachers already do this.  

I’m also not entirely aware of how the state frameworks discuss climate change, but we can certainly ask NPS to report to us on this and then take it from there.

Emily Prenner

New Science curriculum is in the process of being rolled out in the elementary schools, and has already been rolled in the middle schools. The new curriculum includes information about human activity and its impact on the planet. I would also encourage both high schools to continue and even expand the sustainability electives and club activities already available.

Galina Rosenblit

Industrial society needs to spend all necessary resources to protect the environment for future generations. To be able to face environmental challenges of the future, our children have to understand that human society has limited resources and a lot of needs were these resources can be used for human race advancement. To keep environment clean with optimum utilization of human resources, our society has to behave intelligently.

We need to teach math and science well, so that some of our students would be able to become good engineers capable to advance environment protection technologies. Environmental science is the engineering science first and the political science second.   

Kathy Shields

While the School Committee does not have a role in establishing the curriculum at any grade levels, we certainly review the curriculum, and have the opportunity to question NPS leadership about the choices being made about how to teach within the state’s curriculum frameworks.  I think there have been improvements over the last several years in emphasizing environmental and climate change issues through the social studies curriculum – particularly in the 6th grade unit on the United Nations Global Goals and the 8th grade Generation Citizens program.  In addition, new science units with a greater emphasis on the environment are being rolled out to address changes at the state level in what our students are expected to study and know.  The School Committee can encourage curriculum development related to climate change and environmental concerns by asking questions about it when we hear presentations from the district’s curriculum experts and by keeping a focus on sustainability as one of the district’s systemwide goals.

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