In March 28, world leaders gathered at the United Nations where they heard this proclamation, “Just over a decade is all that remains to stop irreversible damage from climate change…” Who this will impact the most? “Children have a stake in the decisions we make now,” Nahmi Jones, VMD, an environmental conservationist, tells Parentology. “They’re going to have to deal with the climate disasters we’ve created.” So are kids being taught about climate change in the classroom?
Climate Change in the Curriculum
A recent national NPR/Ipsos Climate Change Earth Day poll revealed that though 86% of teachers feel climate change should be taught in schools, only 46% of them actually end up talking about it in classes. Two-thirds of the teachers surveyed said it wasn’t part of their curriculum, so they weren’t sure how to fit it into already packed subject schedules. Other concerns included concern they might not have the necessary information required. There was also the issue of potential complaints from parents over the topic.
Glenn Branch, deputy director at the National Centre for Science Education, analyzed the education standards in different states for NPR and found 36 states mention the “reality of human-caused climate change” in their framework. However, it’s mandatory in only two states to take earth or environmental science classes to earn a high school degree.
Connecticut Schools to Lead the Way
Connecticut took steps in May to ensure its schools teach students about climate change. Its House of Representatives passed a bill requiring climate change be included in school curriculums via Next Generation Science Standards.
“By putting climate change education into state statute, Connecticut is taking the lead in empowering young people to be part of the solution to a problem they had no hand in making,” Rep. Christine Palm said when the bill passed.
She continued, “Past generations, including mine, have despoiled our environment, and the current administration in Washington systematically strips out enlightened regulations that had been enacted to protect our land, air and waterways. The least we can do is give our students a chance to salvage what’s left of our natural world.”
If the bill is passed and signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont, Connecticut would become the first state in the US to make teaching climate change mandatory.
Climate Change Knowledge Necessary in Higher Education
This is a critical step in education. Parentology spoke with Dr. Ankit Kumar, a postdoctoral researcher at School of Innovative Sciences, Eindhoven University of Technology, in Eindhoven, Netherlands, about what they’re noticing in terms of incoming students’ knowledge of climate change.
“When we get students in the first year at university, the students already know the terms associated with climate change,” Kumar tells Parentology. “But they’re not aware of the social and political impact of climate change. They don’t know what they can do about it, and this needs to change.”
As Ankit puts it, “All students pass through the school stage. After graduating from high school, they may opt out of formal studies or choose streams where it is not possible to discuss about climate change in an impactful way. Schools can be a powerful platform to start a serious discussion on climate change and how it will affect their future.”
Sharing the Knowledge
Jones says, it only makes sense kids become a part of the climate change conversation. “If we give kids space to think about the problem, their generation may come up with ingenious solutions adults around them haven’t even thought of.”
As for who should be joining in, Jones says, “All hands on deck at whatever capacity. Yes, teachers, yes, parents and yes anybody else who might have influence over climate change.”
United Nations: Only 11 Years Left to Prevent Irreversible Damage from Climate Change, Speakers Warn during General Assembly High-Level Meeting
Nahmi Jones, VMD, Environmental Conservationist
Dr. Ankit Kumar, a postdoctoral researcher at School of Innovative Sciences, Eindhoven University of Technology
NPR: Most Teachers Don’t Teach Climate Change, 4 out of 5 Parents Wish They Did
The Connecticut Mirror: After lengthy debate, climate change curriculum bill passes House
Hartford Courant: Bill mandating the teaching of climate change brings out science skeptics in the Connecticut House
*With reporting by Shweta M.