Climate Awareness: New Jersey School Districts Taking Action
In 2020, the state of New Jersey became the first U.S. state to mandate climate education for all across K-12 content areas and grade levels. This past spring, districts across the state took the lead in implementation by joining together with Take Action Global for the 2023 Climate Awareness Program, a six-week community-based program that ran from April through June 2023.
Following a multi-year collaboration with New Jersey First Lady, Ms. Tammy Murphy, TAG set out to develop a program that would give K-12 classrooms an opportunity to explore the five phases of climate awareness education:
- Critical thinking
Districts teamed up for professional development of teachers through a district-wide implementation and for the formation of a learning community around climate education across the State of New Jersey. Participating districts demonstrated that climate awareness, when prioritized, is possible and within reach. Here are a few of our lessons learned from our climate awareness adventures.
Start with professional learning
Educators are ready for action – but are seeking support to move forward with climate education. As we kicked off, we aimed to develop community and celebrate at the start (instead of waiting until the end). Program participants represented districts as classroom teachers, edtech coaches, library/media specialists, STEM teachers, district administrators, and more – showing that climate can be across the curriculum and that every educator can be a climate action educator. Our PD offered bite-sized, accessible learning experiences bringing focus to best practices in both climate action and teaching and learning.
Seek out the good
For many participating in the program, this was a first opportunity to introduce climate conversations into instruction. With a focus on hope and optimism, we designed for asset based community development and prepared to look for the good-for-planet actions that were already happening across the state of New Jersey. Our approach brought focus to localized climate resilience and wellbeing – empowering educators, students, and parents to see that small, positive actions can add up to big change.
Strength in instructional practice
Start with where you shine. For our educators, climate education may be new but strength in teaching and learning can be an educator’s strongest ally for creating impact for the planet. Our Climate Awareness Lesson was designed for all – customizable and created to be ready-to-go for all K-12 classrooms. All ideas and actions were counted bringing climate awareness to the center of sound project-based learning practices amplifying student voice, inquiry, and use of collaborative technologies. Teachers and students joined together to co-construct a learning experience preparing classrooms to move confidently from climate awareness to climate literacy all aligned to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards.
Commit to making connections
For us, climate action education can exist everywhere, so we always look to move past the walls of a classroom. As with all our work, we commit to dedicating time to collaboration and virtual exchange to provide students with an opportunity to see that climate action does not have borders. With our Climate Awareness Program, we made an explicit leap from self to local to global. In a foundation exercise, students made connections with the planet by identifying their own areas of interest and personal action. Then, we moved to connecting to other schools in the state with class-to-class virtual exchanges. After everyone had experienced the same lesson, they then connected with classrooms in different districts for continued learning and discussion. In the final week, we joined together for a celebration of learning where we invited global classrooms to present on what climate action education looks like in their areas of the world. New Jersey classrooms connected with schools in Kenya, Italy, Taiwan, India, and even within the United States hearing from students in Missouri. New perspectives, new friendships, and new understandings of the world! We see that climate action education can include us all.
Climate awareness, over to you–
We invite you to enjoy our student-created list of Summer Climate Awareness “Look Fors.” As you head out on your summer adventures, be sure to be aware of all the good that is happening for the planet in your little area of the world!
Special congratulations to the educators of our New Jersey school districts who are leading the way for the state, the United States, and the world!
Allendale School District
Cranford Public Schools
Holmdel Public School District
Lacey Public Schools
Mendham Borough School District
Millville Public Charter School
Morris Plains Public Schools
Roselle Public Schools
If you are interested in learning more about Take Action Global’s climate education programs for schools and districts, please send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.