New Jersey has become the first state to include climate change in the curriculum of its K-12 schools. The new standards will go into effect in two phases, in 2021 and 2022.
On June 3, The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) adopted new New Jersey Student Learning Standards in seven content areas: Career Readiness; Comprehensive Health and Physical Education; Computer Science Design and Thinking; Science; Social Studies; Visual and Performing Arts; and World Languages.
These standards are updated every five years, and the most recent changes will be introduced in classrooms beginning in September 2021. According to NJDOE, climate change will now be incorporated into each of these seven content areas, “leveraging the passion students have shown for this critical issue and providing them opportunities to develop a deep understanding of the science behind the changes and to explore the solutions our world desperately needs.”
New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy is an advocate of the new guidelines and met with 130 educators across the state to discuss their implementation.
“The adoption of these standards is much more than an added educational requirement; it is a symbol of a partnership between generations,” Murphy said in a statement, according to NJ.com. “Decades of short-sighted decision-making has fueled this crisis and now we must do all we can to help our children solve it. 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.”
Student activists have led the movement for climate change reform in recent years. In 2019, then-16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to stop climate change.
Thunberg was among 16 minors who filed a complaint with the United Nations against five countries — Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey — for failing to take adequate action on climate change.
Former Vice President Al Gore, who was a 2007 Nobel Prize Laureate for his “efforts to obtain and disseminate information about the climate challenge,” praised New Jersey’s historic step to address climate change in schools.
“I am incredibly proud that New Jersey is the first state in the nation to fully integrate climate change in their K-12 curricula,” Gore said in a statement. “This initiative is vitally important to our students as they are the leaders of tomorrow, and we will depend on their leadership and knowledge to combat this crisis.”