New Jersey is the first state to introduce a climate change curriculum in schools
New Jersey public school students will be the first in the nation to be required to learn about climate change while in the classroom starting this school year.
“Climate change is becoming a real reality,” New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, who spearheaded the initiative, told “ABC News Live” on Thursday.
The new standards were adopted by the state board of education in 2020, but due to the pandemic, implementation was put on hold, giving educators and districts more time to prepare lesson plans for all K-12 students.
“Districts themselves are in a position to design whatever they want to implement and interpret this new education standard,” Murphy said.
Lessons will focus on how climate change has accelerated in recent decades and how it has affected public health, human society, and contributed to natural disasters.
“You can look at the world, whether it’s Pakistan, where a third of the country is under water right now, or wildfires raging in the United States and droughts in Asia,” Murphy said. “Here in our own backyard in New Jersey, we have our own challenges. Whether it’s sea level rise, a microburst or an algal bloom.”
The program will also introduce students to careers in climate change as federal and local officials work to combat natural disasters and create a greener economy by adding new jobs and increasing funding.
“I want to make sure that the next generation of students, and those that come after, have the skill sets they need to be able to earn and succeed in the amazing jobs that will be available as we all shift to a greener economy,” Murphy said.
President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to tackle climate change, was passed last month and analysts estimate it could create as many as 1.5 million to 9 million new jobs in construction, manufacturing and services in the next 10 years.
In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, the president said “we are already living in a climate crisis.”
“Nobody seems to doubt that after the past year,” Biden said. “I choose which child to feed and wonder if it will survive. This is the human cost of climate change. And it grows.”
Over the past few years, many state and local officials have taken action to engage their communities in the fight against climate change. In March, Gov. Phil Murphy allocated $5 million in the fiscal 2023 state budget for climate education.
“A top priority of my administration has been to restore New Jersey’s role as a leader in the fight against climate change,” the governor said in a statement.
To help educators adapt to this new curriculum, the state launched the New Jersey Climate Change Learning Center, which gives teachers access to lesson plans, educational videos and professional development.
The first lady said that while creating this program, she toured at least 10-15 schools and found that climate change was already being taught to some degree in most classrooms. She added that this as a requirement is necessary to ensure that all students have the same learning opportunities as in other compulsory subjects.
Murphy added that within just the first month of the school year, teachers have expressed excitement about the curriculum and that the state “has gotten great initial feedback.”