Friday, September 29, 2023

N.J. steps up climate change education


It is good that the New Jersey State Board of Education has included climate change learning objectives in the standards adopted by the board for New Jersey’s public school students, but it’s not news.

News reports claiming that New Jersey was “the first state to incorporate climate change into K-12 curriculum standards” are inaccurate, though.

The Next Generation Science Standards, formally adopted by the Maryland State Board of Education in 2013, more than nine years ago, include climate change standards in plain view. Maryland’s public schools are required to teach climate change due to this action by the state board.

Several other states—including New Jersey, by the way—have formally adopted the NGSS as well, meaning that New Jersey isn’t the first state to incorporate climate change standards since the standards themselves were already part of what schools in the state were required to teach.

The NGSS climate change standards, or some version of them modified for a certain state, are in the Earth and space science section. For example,

Standard HS-ESS3-5: Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth’s systems.

The relevant portion of the disciplinary core ideas says that students should be taught and know that “though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.”

That is, New Jersey isn’t the first or only state to adopt climate change learning standards, but what New Jersey has done, perhaps better than any state so far, is to create an education hub to help teachers develop lessons that teach the climate change standards as part of the curriculum each school develops independently.

The nicely upgraded hub includes sample lesson plans and professional development opportunities for the state’s teachers and a searchable database of learning resources students and teachers can use to study climate change and how we can reduce its detrimental effects. The hub also includes guidance for local school boards from the state about upgrading their schools’ curricular materials.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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