Climate change ed in NYC schools heats up

Eleven states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which cover climate change and also acknowledge human influence
By: | Issue: April, 2015
March 23, 2015

New York City students may soon learn formal lessons on climate change as a proposed curriculum continues to win endorsements from leading environmental groups.

Two groups, the Alliance for Climate Education and Global Kids, have been encouraging the New York State Department of Education to add climate change to the city’s K12 curriculum.

The effort, centered on Resolution 0375-2014 now before the New York City Council, was endorsed in February by The Natural Resources Defense Council.

While the curriculum hasn’t been fully developed, it would ideally cross several subjects, as climate change impacts science, social studies and history, says Kevin Murungi, director of human rights and foreign policy program for Global Kids, a nonprofit that works with underprivileged schools in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Global Kids students have been passionate about climate change for several years now, says Murungi.

In previous years, its students have studied environmental issues such as fracking and green roofs.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, our New York City students galvanized around the exact issue of climate change,” Murungi says. “Some of their families lost homes and loved ones. It really impacted them in a profound way.”

Science and safety join forces in natural disaster curriculum

Students in San Diego USD study the science behind natural disasters to better understand their planet and also to help their school and community prepare for emergencies.

This new, interactive elementary school curriculum covers the geological processes that cause natural disasters.

For example, students will analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. Students will research the earthquakes and wildfires that occur in Southern California, and will research hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanoes that erupt worldwide.

The students also organize and help run a safety fair for younger students and community members to encourage crisis preparedness by showcasing group PSAs, posters or brochures, emergency plans and any other items that they have created.

San Diego USD is the first district in the county to implement this Common Core-aligned curriculum, which was created through a partnership between The San Diego County Office of Emergency Services and the San Diego County Office of Education.

San Diego County has had three emergencies over the past 11 years. The county government says children who understand the reasons behind disasters can help keep themselves and the community safer.

Global Kids students have generated support for the resolution through petitions, op-eds in local media.

They also have also spread their message on social media and through organized letter-writing and phone campaigns.

The supporters of Resolution 0375-2014 are working on getting 32 co-sponsors before moving it to a vote. So far more than a dozen co-sponsors are supporting it, says Murungi.

Teaching climate change is not without controversy.

Eleven states and Washington, D.C. have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which not only cover climate change but also acknowledge that humans are influencing it. Some states, like South Carolina, have blocked the standards.

In March, Wyoming lifted its ban on NGSS after previously rejecting it over the focus on climate change.