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New Jersey Becomes First State to Include Climate Change in School Curriculum — a ‘Critical’ Step

People logo People 6/4/2020
a close up of a hand holding a cellphone: “We will need leaders who are not only well educated about the effects of climate change, but leaders who can craft solutions for climate change and implement those solutions," said former Vice President Al Gore © Getty “We will need leaders who are not only well educated about the effects of climate change, but leaders who can craft solutions for climate change and implement those solutions," said former Vice President Al Gore

New Jersey has announced a new initiative that will make it the first U.S. state to incorporate climate change education into its curriculum.

The New Jersey Board of Education will soon mandate lessons on climate change for all K-12 public school students, First Lady Tammy Murphy said Wednesday.

The lessons will be incorporated across seven different areas of content: 21st Century Life and Careers, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Technology, Visual and Performing Arts and World Languages.

New Jersey has already seen effects of climate change, from disappearing shorelines and super storms, to harmful algal blooms in local lakes, Murphy said in a statement.

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“The adoption of these standards is much more than an added educational requirement; it is a symbol of a partnership between generations,” she said. “Decades of short-sighted decision-making has fueled this crisis and now we must do all we can to help our children solve it.”

“The 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," she added.

Gov. Phil Murphy, meanwhile, said that since taking office, he’s made it a “top priority” to reestablish New Jersey as a leader in the fight against climate change.

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“By incorporating these standards into the nation’s number one public education system, we are creating a catalyst and knowledge base for new green jobs and teaching our children to become leaders who will propel New Jersey forward to 100 percent clean energy by 2050,” he said in a statement.

The decision was praised by former Vice President Al Gore, who said he was “incredibly proud,” and that the lessons would positively impact future generations in a big way.

“We will need leaders who are not only well educated about the effects of climate change, but leaders who can craft solutions for climate change and implement those solutions,” he said in a statement.

Fifty-five percent of teachers surveyed in an NPR/Ipsos poll last year said they did not cover climate change in any way with their students, despite the fact that 86 percent of teachers said they believed climate change should be taught in schools.

RELATED: Al Gore Says ‘We Have the Solutions We Need to Solve the Climate Crisis’ on Earth Day 2020

More than 80 percent of parents polled agreed that their children should be learning about climate change.

Though New Jersey is the first state to incorporate lessons in its curricula, Washington state legislature passed a budget proviso in 2017 that ultimately led to ClimeTime, “which funds projects and events that connect public school teachers with environmental organizations in their communities,” according to environmental news magazine Grist.

The lessons will be implemented in New Jersey classrooms starting in September 2021, and will cover things like how climate change works, how it impacts personal and public health and how students can use art to address it, NJ.com reported.

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