Climate Education Takes Root
February 7, 2024
In the summer of 2023, 39 elementary school teachers gathered for a four-day training session in New York. The goal of the workshop was to expose educators to the topic of climate change so they could integrate it into their lesson plans. This is tangible proof that, fifty years after Earth Day first championed the idea, climate education has become a reality in parts of the United States.
This program is another critically important step towards prioritizing climate education in grade school curriculum. In 2022, New Jersey became a nationwide leader by mandating climate change lessons in public schools. Similar bills have been introduced in the state of New York which promise to introduce interdisciplinary climate education and support teacher training.
But why is climate education necessary? Building a foundational knowledge of science is the key to understanding the reality of the climate crisis and developing solutions. By integrating climate education into various subjects, students can learn the interconnectedness of processes that impact the environment. These lessons do not have to be complicated either — with the help of training workshops, educators can develop interactive plans for younger learners.
Students are also exposed to potential career pathways by learning about climate change. For example, the New York City school system is considering possible curriculum mandates that would prepare students for careers in the clean energy industry. As the climate crisis continues, the field of scientists, engineers, and researchers must continue to grow so they can develop mitigation and adaptation solutions.
By teaching climate education to students across all subjects and grade levels, we help children develop their green muscle memory. This state of mind, where individuals subconsciously make environmentally friendly choices, can have a significant impact on the future of our planet. Educating the next generation is crucial for fighting the climate and plastics crises while building a more sustainable society.
The New York education program was modest but successful. In February, the New York City Department of education intends to host a much larger training session with up to 500 teachers, which could inspire even more workshops in the future. Other states can adopt similar policies and look to this experimental program as a template for teacher training. Some states, such as California, Maine, and Washington, are already considering allocating funds for professional development on the topic of climate education.
Future programs should continue to provide adequate resources for educators who would be tasked with integrating this curriculum. Workshops should be offered for teachers of every grade level so they have the knowledge to pass on to their students. In order to help make climate information more accessible, EARTHDAY.ORG has made curriculum packets and toolkits available on our website. Plus, EARTHDAY.ORG has an exciting new Climate Education Map coming in February, 2024, which will reveal the stance of each state on climate education, who teaches it and who does not!
These are small but undeniably beneficial steps toward promoting climate literacy for the next generation. We should do everything we can to not only develop our own green muscle memory, but help others learn better, greener behaviors that will lead to positive change.