With powerful storms impacting its coastline and algal blooms affecting its lakes, New Jersey is already quite familiar with the damaging effects of climate change. Now, K-12 students will familiarize themselves further with the urgent need to curb climate change as the state becomes the first in the nation to mandate the integration of climate learning into school curriculums.
The initiative was led by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy and a group of 130 educators who feel climate change education is vital for all children who will feel its effects on our world for their entire lifetimes.
Schools will be able to choose how they implement the mandate in classrooms, but schools across the state will be required to introduce the new guidelines in September 2021.
Climate activists have praised the decision, but urge teachers to take a holistic approach to the material. “The education should not just be about science and the problems of climate change,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the environmental organization Sierra Club, told Global Citizen. He stressed the need to focus on solutions, too.
Proponents hope that this curriculum will give students the necessary information to understand climate change, how it impacts our world, and how we can begin to mitigate it. Increasing discussions of climate change in classrooms also amplifies public discussions about the topic and keeps it at the forefront of citizens’ minds.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we collectively face as a society in the 21st century. The actions we take now could make or break the environmental future for these school-aged children. Increasing education on the topic spurs productive conversations and inspires children to take action in their own communities. Who knows…the next great climate activist or scientist may be sitting in a New Jersey (virtual) classroom as we speak.