Wishing you a happy, healthy, and sustainable summer vacation!

Happy Almost Vacation! (And a Few Summer Opportunities)

What a year! In spite of everything going on, the Green Newton School Connections team kept going because we need to work together if we are going to make a difference in our community. We continued to meet virtually every month, put together a proposal for the School Committee to include climate change education in its K-12 district-wide goals, and reignited the School Sustainability Working Group. Many school green teams and student groups also can be proud of their accomplishments such as gardening, recycling programs, climate justice webinars and more. All during a pandemic!

While many of you will be taking a much needed and well deserved break this summer, we wanted to post some summer class options just in case you are interested:

Wishing you all a happy and *healthy* summer vacation. We will meet again on September 2, 2021. See you all then!

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. 

Newton Community Farm - Summer 2021

2021 High School Field Crew Internship Program

Newton Community Farm is pleased to offer summer internship opportunities to current high school students. As you consider whether this is the right place for you this summer, please be aware that it is okay to have little or no farming or gardening experience. You should, however, be prepared to work hard and have a positive attitude.

The time commitment is three days per week for four consecutive weeks. You can choose either June 29-July 22 or July 27-August 19. We start at 8 am and work until 12 pm, Tuesday through Thursday. This is an unpaid internship. 

If you are interested in learning more, please read and complete the application form and the parental consent, liability waiver, photo release and medical information and return the forms as directed on the application.

More information at Newton Community Farm

Art supplies

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle School Supplies

While getting ready for the school year to end, Green Newton School Connections invites you to think about school supplies in a sustainable way.  

This is a great opportunity to embrace our sustainable values with our children and show them how they can personally take climate action. Going together with the kids through their books, notes and school materials can be a valuable experience – in economic and environmental terms – and help reducing waste at the end of the school year by practicing the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

There’s a reason reduce & reuse come before recycle – not just because it sounds good, but it’s the order in which we should approach sustainability. Here are some tips to use with your child when gathering their school supplies:

  • Empty backpacks, pencil cases, binders, folders.
  • Clean everything (a swipe of rubbing alcohol can remove marker and make everything look like new).
  • Repair or patch what you can. 
  • Organize pens, pencils, markers, scissors, calculators, etc.
  • Take out the used pages of notebooks and evaluate what can be reused in school or at home.

You will note that you can really reduce the purchase of new supplies in the fall because a lot can be reused. And we can all celebrate how much energy, water, resources and money we will have saved in our community! 

Check out more resources:

Trees in Newton Schools

You may have noticed a lot of newly planted trees around Newton lately, including at many of our schools. These trees were planted as part of the 4C Tree Project – 4C standing for Capture Carbon Commemorate COVID. They are a living memorial to honor the Newton residents who lost their lives during this awful pandemic. 

Thanks to the support of Green Teams, PTOs and student advocates, several Newton schools are now providing a beautiful living memorial to loved ones lost to Covid-19 – and helping to capture carbon: Mason Rice, NSHS, Ward, Bigelow, Horace Mann, Pierce, Burr and Angier. Burr School, for example, has more than 20 new trees, most of them native!

This brilliant plan was initiated by Elizabeth Sockwell, a Newton resident, NSHS class of 2016, and 2021 college graduate. She and her team, consisting of many young people from the Green Newton Youth Leadership Program, organized the plantings with the help of Green Newton and Marc Welch, the city forester. They already have planted 170 trees, and they are hoping to plant more. If you would like to see trees planted at your school, please let us know – we can help!

Check out the @4ctreeproject Instagram account for more pictures and updates.

Donations also are still being accepted: Sponsor a 4C Tree

Ward Elementary 5th graders planted COVID-19 memorial trees with Green Newton’s Youth Leadership Group, Newton Forestry Department & dedicated parents. Planting for the future and in service to our community…thanks 5th graders! Photo: NPS, from the Superintendent’s May 19 Update

Connections Between Race and Environmental Discriminations

Inspired by the NNHS Climate Collective’s fantastic Sustainability Day program, FORJ NNHS a discussion on Climate Change and Racial Justice: What’s the Connection? School Connection members  Ms. Devlin and Ms. Teissier, NNHS teachers and who both played a role in supporting the students to prepare and present Sustainability Day, were the guest speakers. They provided opening reflections, sharing some of the issues, approaches, and questions highlighted by our NNHS students about some of the growing impacts of climate change on lower-income communities in the US.

More resources around the Connections Between Race and Environmental Discriminations can be found at the NNHS FORJ website. 

Volunteer to reduce recycling contamination in Newton

The City of Newton is undertaking an educational cart-top sticker campaign in 2021. Large stickers will be applied on all recycling carts in our ongoing effort to reduce recycling contamination. The stickers will inform residents of what is acceptable in the green carts.
 
Since we’re going to be at the curb, we’ll also be gathering some data. Data collection on trash and recycling carts throughout the city is needed to best understand how these services are functioning and can be improved, with an emphasis on waste reduction.
 
Unfortunately, at this time, we are unable to hire part time staff to perform the curbside data gathering and adhere stickers. Thus, in order to accomplish this, we are seeking volunteers to assist with this effort. 
 
Details about the project:
  • Volunteers will walk neighborhood routes (assigned), adhere stickers to recycling carts, lift cart lids and document observations. This is not an enforcement project.
  • The soonest the stickering project will start is mid-June and will run through at least September. The hours/days we need volunteers for are from 7am – 10am Monday through Friday. We are looking for volunteers who can commit to walking a minimum of one route per week. We’re looking for as many volunteers as we can get, with the ultimate goal of stickering every recycling cart in Newton. 
  • Volunteers will use a smartphone to track the observational data using an app (one can be provided if needed)
  • If it is raining, the routes that day are cancelled.
The benefits of volunteering for this project include:
  • Assist in spreading recycling education to reduce recycling contamination
  • Get exercise and spend time outside by walking neighborhood routes
  • Engage with your community in a safe, physically distanced way
  • Gather information that will, in part, inform future decisions regarding Newton’s waste and recycling collection services
If you are interested in volunteering, please fill in your information in this survey. If you would like more details, email Erica at [email protected].

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.

Meet Me on Planet 3

New Podcast: Meet Me on Planet 3 with Alaskan student Eve Downing

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.

Listen to the podcast and tell a friend about Meet Me on Planet 3 as well! 

School Connections urges School Committee to make Climate Education a District Goal

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].