Rutgers Partners With New Jersey Schools to Develop Historic Climate Change Curriculum, by Kitta MacPherson


Rutgers will play a central role in New Jersey’s historic move to become the first state in the nation to teach all public school students - from K-12 - about climate change across all subjects.

Experts in climate science, science communication and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, together with Rutgers experts in the humanities, social studies and language arts, are launching the first in what is planned to be a series of specialized workshops where they will be collaborating with teachers throughout the state to develop approaches to bring climate change education to the classroom. The first, a Rutgers-sponsored statewide session, “Climate Change Workshop: New Jersey’s Warming Climate,” is set to take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at the Rutgers University Inn and Conference Center, 178 Ryders Lane, New Brunswick.

“Our overarching goal is to help teachers empower young people to understand climate change and have the agency to develop and implement solutions,” said Janice McDonnell, an associate professor and a Science Engineering Technology Agent at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS).

The workshops are designed to make the most of the expertise of Rutgers faculty and staff to support teachers in creating innovative lessons, activities and resources that will support state standards. The sessions also will provide an opportunity for the Rutgers collaborators leading it to learn more about what schools need to help them achieve their goals.

“Teachers are critical messengers and facilitators of climate change education,” said Marjorie Kaplan, co-director, New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center at Rutgers and one of the leaders of the effort. “Climate change impacts every facet of our lives, and our role is to help them approach climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective, including subject areas such as history, art, world languages and physical education, in addition to traditional STEM themes.”

In addition to McDonnell and Kaplan, others leading the collaboration include:

  • Edward Cohen, assistant director of the Center for Math, Science and Computer Science Education in Rutgers’ Division of Continuing Studies
  • Carrie Ferraro, an assistant professor of professional practice with the Math and Science Learning Center in Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences
  • Brielle Kociolek, senior iSTEM Education Coordinator at the Center for Math, Science and Computer Science Education in Rutgers’ Division of Continuing Studies
  • James Shope, a geoscientist, and research associate in the Department of Environmental Sciences at SEBS.

New Jersey became the first state to incorporate climate change into the kindergarten-through-grade 12 curriculum in June 2020 (with an implementation start date of September 2022), when state officials approved recommendations contained within the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. The guidelines offered a broad outline upon which school districts can expand.

Gov. Phil Murphy first announced the idea, characterizing it as the foundation of his focus on clean energy, during a State of the State address in January 2020. First Lady Tammy Murphy continued to lead the effort, pushing for its implementation with the assistance of more than 100 educators.

According to data gathered and analyzed by Rutgers scientists, temperatures have been climbing at a faster rate in recent decades in New Jersey. The trend is expected to accelerate further with climate change. By 2050, sea level in the state is projected to rise 11 inches to 2 feet above 2000 conditions. In addition, extreme rainfall is expected to intensify by the end of the century, leading to greater flooding.

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