By: Paige Britt, Follow South Jersey Intern
SOUTH JERSEY – In 2020, New Jersey implemented new education standards into the K-12 curriculum to teach all grades about climate change. While this is a polarized issue in the nation, New Jersey is the first and only state to do this.
According to nj.gov, the goal of teaching climate change to students is that they will understand how and why climate change occurs and how they can contribute to society in sustainable ways. Students are meant to learn in an evidence-based, action-oriented way.
An article from the New York Times described these standards as rather than scaring children with the what-ifs of the future, they are being told what is going on in the world around them and how they can make a change.
Professor of elementary science education at The College of New Jersey, Lauren Madden, explained the benefits of teaching children in this way.
“When we shield them from so much, they’re not ready to unpack it when they learn about it, and it becomes more scary than when they understand they’re in a position where they can actively think about solutions. When you take kids seriously that way, and trust them with that information, you can allow them to feel empowered to make locally relevant solutions,” Madden said.
Currently, climate change is being integrated into health and physical education, art, theater, and music classes. This summer the NJ state board will be working on including the topic into math and language arts classes.
Tammy Murphy, Governor Phil Murphy’s wife, emphasized how crucial bringing this issue into the classroom is.
“As we face the reality of the climate crisis as a state, we must also help the next generation of leaders prepare for the environmental challenges of the future. Through the incorporation of climate change education across our New Jersey Student Learning Standards, your classrooms and communities can become even greater incubators for cutting-edge ideas, critical and creative thinking, and practical problem-solving, to best cultivate a generation of solutions and plans that are sustainable,” said Murphy.
As for the Governor’s plans, Murphy said, “The challenge ahead of us is great. But, with the Governor’s commitment to reaching 100 percent clean energy by 2050 and a host of other green initiatives, New Jersey is positioned to be a leader of the climate movement – now and in the future.”
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