New Jersey to Teach Climate Change to Its 1.4 Million Students

Last week the New Jersey State Board of Education adopted First Lady Tammy Murphy’s initiative to make New Jersey the first state in the nation to incorporate climate change in its K-12 curriculum.

In New Jersey, we have already begun to experience the effects of climate change, from our disappearing shorelines, to harmful algal blooms in our lakes, super storms producing torrential rain, and summers that are blazing hot,” said Murphy.

Why This Matters: Climate change will now be comprehensively taught to New Jersey’s 1.4 million students and this move by New Jersey will hopefully encourage more states to follow its lead. According to a NPR/Ipsos poll published last year, more than 80% of American parents think climate change should be taught in schools, but most teachers still aren’t teaching the subject. Many teachers are afraid of tackling what is perceived to be a politically controversial topic but if state governments make the mandate then that can take the pressure off teachers to teach kids about climate change and why it matters to their lives.

The Curriculum: As CNN reported, the new standards, which will go into effect in 2021 and 2022, cover seven subject areas — 21st Century Life and Careers, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Technology, Visual and Performing Arts, and World Languages.

  • The Mathematics and Language Arts guidelines aren’t up for review until 2022, but the board added climate change standards as an appendix to those subjects.
Improving the Materials: According to a Hechinger Report analysis, in a review of the 32 textbooks, which are used in California, Florida, Oklahoma or Texas, it was found that at least 12 included descriptions of climate change that were superficial or contained errors. Another four of the science books did not discuss the topic at all. And some downplayed the scientific consensus that human activities are causing the current climate crisis.
Teachers don’t know where to find reliable lesson plans on climate change either. With New Jersey making this update to its curriculum it can begin a national dialogue about climate change education and can better equip teachers to teach the subject.

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