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New York State Senate to Establish a Climate Change Curriculum in NY Public Schools

Climate change is a global phenomenon that is gaining increased awareness each year. It is not a trend which is dissipating over time.  Intellectuals, academics, environmental and social scientists, have assumed the responsibility of educating college students and the public on the severity of this issue.  My alma mater, NYU, has held numerous research summits on educating its students and community on climate change.  NYU believes climate change “touches on nearly all facets of modern life, necessitating an increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to address open questions” (Communications, 2020).  Their Climate Connections website state that “Across our three NYU campuses, scholars are working from diverse disciplines, departments, schools, and units to advance climate change-related research and scholarship. Our size, the structure of separate schools, and far-separated geographical locations present a challenge to collaboration, networking, and interdisciplinary scholarship” (Communications, 2020). 

Neither the State Legislature nor the City have introduced a climate change curriculum.  An article published in The New York City EEAC (Environmental Education Advisory Council), Teaching about Climate Change, by Sarah Pidgeon, advocates introducing climate change as a science curriculum in NYC public schools, and that teachers should be properly trained to successfully execute such a program.  In September 2017, New York public schools began to implement a new set of New York State standards for science teachers that includes a focus on teaching students about climate change.  These standards are based in part on the Next Generation Science Standards — a national set of science standards being implemented in 20 states in the US. These science standards were developed by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and include an introduction to climate change in middle school and an in-depth exploration of climate science in high school. Importantly, these standards link human activity to climate change and foster an understanding of the complexity of the relationship between the atmosphere, the ocean, and all life on earth” (Pidgeon, 2018).    

 Three active bills are currently under consideration in the State Senate to establish a climate change curriculum in NYC public schools.  First is Senate Bill S6837 (2019-2020 Legislative Session), titled An act to amend the public authorities law and the education law, in relation to establishing a climate change education grant program, sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky (D) of the 9th district (Long Beach, LI).  The co-sponsors are NYS senators Alessandra Biaggi (D, WF, 34th District), Phil Boyle (R, 4th district), Anna M. Kaplan (D, IP, WF, 7th district), and Timothy M. Kennedy (D, IP, WF, 63rd district).  This bill is in the Senate’s Energy and Telecommunications Committee.  Kaminsky’s aim is to “develop climate change education in schools by creating a grant program, from amounts annually appropriated, for school districts, boards of cooperative educational services, and community-based organizations to conduct education programs aimed at increasing climate change literacy in students.” (NY State Senate Bill S6837 2020). 

The second is Senate Bill S7341 (2019-2020 Legislative Session), titled An act to amend the education law, in relation to establishing a model, sponsored by senator Andrew Gounardes (D) of Brooklyn’s 22nd district, presently with the Senate Education Committee.  It is co-sponsored by NYS senators Joseph P. Addabbo Jr (D, 15th district), Liz Krueger (D, WF [GR1] 2nd district), Velmanette Montgomery (D, 25th district), and Julia Salazar (D, WF, 18th district).  Gounardes’ proposed bill “Establishes a model environmental curriculum in all public elementary and secondary schools which shall include various principles and concepts including environmental justice” (NY State Senate Bill S7341 2020). 

Lastly, the third is Senate Bill S6877 (2019-2020 Legislative Session), titled An act to amend the education law, in relation to requiring the commissioner of education to make recommendations to the board of regents relating to the adoption of instruction in climate science in senior high schools.   It is currently in the Senate Educational Committee, sponsored by senator Rachel May (D, WF) of the 53rd district; and co-sponsored by senator Todd Kaminsky.  Its goal is “to ensure that New York’s high school students learn the science behind climate change including the green-house gas cycle and the state’s new commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions” (NY State Senate Bill S6877 2020). This bill “Requires the commissioner of education to make recommendations to the board of regents relating to the adoption of instruction in climate science in senior high schools” (NY State Senate Bill S6877 2020). 

 Although these bills have not yet made it to the senate floor, it is clear that t senators from multiple districts and their constituents believe that there is a need for a climate change curriculum in NYS schools.  While passage of any of the bills before the Senate is not assured, there is promise that in the near future, New York State will join New Jersey, which just became “the first US state to introduce such a standard. Schools are expected to start implementing the new guidelines [GR2] in September 2021” (Rodriguez &amp[GR3] ; Gralki, 2020).

image: https://lawliberty.org/how-to-teach-children-about-climate-change/

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  1. Communications, N. (n.d.). Climate Connections. Retrieved December 19, 2020, from

https://www.nyu.edu/life/sustainability/teaching—research/climate-connections.html

  • NY State Senate Bill S6837. (2020, February 28). Retrieved December 20, 2020, from

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s6837

  • NY State Senate Bill S6877. (2020, November 06). Retrieved December 20, 2020, from

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s6877

  • NY State Senate Bill S7341. (2020, October 15). Retrieved December 20, 2020, from

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s7341

  • Pidgeon, S. (2018, Summer). Teaching About Climate Change [PDF]. New York City:

Environmental Education Council of New York City.

  • Rodriguez, L., & Gralki, P. (2020, June 05). New Jersey Is Now the 1st US State to

Require Schools to Teach Climate Change. Retrieved December 20, 2020, from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/nj-introduces-climate-change-curriculum-schools/


 [GR1]What’s WF? Will all your readers know/ I don’t.

 [GR2]What new guidelines? Should this sentence go up to end of 2nd paragraph? Or is it Hew Jersey schools that will be implanting the new guidelines? If so, say so.

 [GR3]Is this a typo?

Well done.  Very informative about pending legislation, about which few people would know. Would you care to comment on which bill you’d like to see passed? Or which bill if any you think will get passed? And why? The different approaches are interesting, including that two are in the Education Committee but one is not. Kaminsky wants grants – is money an issue? Gounardes is the only one to mention elementary schools. May’s goes through the Education Commissioner and the board of regents and only wants them to make recommendations.

Why is the state Senate legislating for the city? What’s the relationship between the two levels of government with regard to education? Don’t school districts have a fair amount of autonomy? You don’t have to address all or any of these issues, but doing so would better inform your readers.

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