New Jersey will soon require its public school students to learn another subject: climate change, from recycling and clean energy to conserving water and protecting the state’s beaches.

The state becomes the first in the country to infuse climate change in the curriculum at every grade level, state officials say. The mandate takes effect with the 2021-22 school year.

The state Board of Education last month approved revisions to add climate change to seven standards: social studies, science, visual and performing arts, health and physical education, world languages, computer science and design thinking and career readiness, life literacies, and key skills.

The move was spearheaded by First Lady Tammy Murphy, a charter member of the Climate Reality Action Fund started by former Vice President Al Glore to put climate control on the political agenda. Gore and environmentalist groups supported the plan.

“We have a great ability in New Jersey to be in the forefront,” Murphy said in an interview. “It’s good for the future.”

It will be up to local school boards to implement the state mandate, including how to teach the curriculum and what books to read. Teachers will be able to modify their existing lesson plans for the targeted subjects to include climate control. The state said it is developing guidelines for math and English language arts; those content standards were revised in 2016.

Murphy describes climate education as her “mini-obsession.” She spent the last year meeting with educators to review the learning standards. Some schools like Egg Harbor High in Atlantic County, Delran High and Northern Burlington Regional High in Mansfield have already introduced climate change and sustainability programs that were used as models.

“It’s the right time and place to tackle this,” Murphy said. “We are going to need climate literacy.”

New Jersey to build massive $400M ‘wind port,’ Gov. Murphy saysHer husband, Gov. Phil Murphy, shares her commitment and wants to make New Jersey a hub for the offshore wind energy industry. Last month, he announced plans to build the first port in the country dedicated to constructing colossal turbines for New Jersey and the eastern seaboard.

BIG NEWS: @GovMurphy and I are proud to announce that New Jersey is the FIRST STATE IN THE NATION to incorporate climate change education across our K-12 learning standards – preparing our students for the future green economy.??

— Tammy Murphy (@FirstLadyNJ) June 3, 2020

Gore is presenting an online workshop this month for New Jersey teachers to help them prepare lesson plans, Tammy Murphy said. There are also resources available from the state Department of Education and tips from other educators.

Like similar state mandates for public schools to infuse Black history, Holocaust, and LGBTQ education into the curriculum and not as a stand-alone subject taught occasionally, climate control is expected to be integrated into age-appropriate lesson plans as something students should know by the time they graduate.

LGBTQ education is now mandatory in N.J. schools. Here’s how teachers are preparingIn social studies, for example, students may research public policy on climate change learn about waterways, or analyze climate change computational models in computer science. In world language class, the lesson could focus on the impact of climate change on a Spanish-speaking class.

“We expect this information to be woven through the curriculum,” said Cherry Hill Schools Superintendent Joseph Meloche said. “It can’t be something that just is relegated to regular science.”

Meloche said his district plans to work on curriculum changes this summer. The state said districts should become familiar with the new standards during the upcoming school year and begin implementing them over the following two years.

In Cinnaminson, teachers are already discussing topics such as the impact humans have on the environment, and expanding their instruction across all disciplines should be an easy transition, said Frank Goulburn, curriculum director.

“Our teachers always find a way to make it work,” he said. “There are always many things being added.”


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