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Teach Your Children Well

How to teach climate change to K-12 students has sparked a national controversy. Supporting fact-based science is a movement made up of parents, science teachers and environmentalists who feel strongly that students learn the connection between humans and climate change.

In April, 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards (http://www.nextgenscience.org/), issued new educational science curriculum standards that included segments on human-driven climate change. To date, education districts in twelve states and in the District of Columbia have adopted the NGSS standards. But in May, 2014,Wyoming, a leading coal-producing state, was the first state to reject the NGSS standards because of the climate change issue. Wyoming produces about 40 percent of the nation’s coal and the industry employs almost 7,000 people. Power plants burning coal to make electricity produce large amounts of CO2, the man-made heat-trapping gas that contributes to global warming.

Last December, the West Virginia Board of Education adopted the NGSS science standards for the 2015-2016 school year. West Virginia is the second largest coal producer after Wyoming. But after it accepted the standards, the West Virginia Board of Education decided to alter the NGSS language about climate change. It wanted to modify a climate change segment for the sixth-grade that stated “the rise in global temperatures over the past century” was due to human activity, to the “rise and fall in global temperatures over the past century.” The proposed alteration backfired and many parents objected stating that temperatures have been rising for decades and there hasn’t been a ‘fall.’  West Virginia parents connected with Climate Parents http://www.climateparents.org / a national group that started an online petition resulting in thousands of signatures opposing the language change. Also urging the board to return to the original standards were 80 West Virginia University professors, the West Virginia Science Teachers Association (http://www.wvsta.org/), the National Science Teachers Association and Achieve, (http://www.achieve.org/next-generation-science-standards), the  organization that coordinated the standards’ development. Their efforts were successful.On January 14, 2015, the board withdrew their changes from the standards and agreed to the original language that emphasized human activity as a cause of climate change.

Back in Wyoming, the same battle was being fought. Just last week, the Wyoming House of Representatives approved legislation that would end the ban it had imposed on science departments to avoid teaching climate change as a result of human activity. The bill, that would end the 2014 ban, is heading to the Wyoming Senate, and if it passes, it will be on the desk of Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who favored the earlier ban

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