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Education

New Jersey Is Now the 1st US State to Require Schools to Teach Climate Change


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All New Jersey public schools are now required to integrate climate change into curriculums for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. 

New Jersey state officials announced the requirement on Wednesday, making it the first US state to introduce such a standard. Schools are expected to start implementing the new guidelines in September 2021. Each school district will have the flexibility to decide how best to teach students about the effects of climate change and how to address them. 

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy led the effort to integrate a climate change curriculum with the help of 130 educators. 

“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,” she said in a statement. 

Environmental advocates applaud the effort but want to see educators take a holistic approach to teaching climate change. 

“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.

“By educating young people on this in school, they may be the ones who will come out with the solutions,” Tittel said. “Just like Greta Thunberg, and we can maybe, hopefully, have hundreds of them in New Jersey, maybe more.”

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Children can also help teach less-informed parents who might be climate deniers, Tittel explained. While he believes integrating climate change into school curriculums is a good start, he would also like to see more efforts to educate entire communities on the issue. 

“I would also like to say the governor and some of the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] commission take some of those courses,” Tittel said.

New Jersey Governor Murphy has received criticism for promoting natural gas as a “bridge fuel” and building a gas power plant in the state. In 2018, Murphy pledged to move New Jersey to adopt 100% clean energy by 2050 and hopes the new climate change education standard will help create new green jobs for the next generation.

“This generation of students will feel the effects of climate change more than any other, and it is critical that every student is provided an opportunity to study and understand the climate crisis through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary lens,” he said in the statement.