Environmental and Climate Education in K-12 Schools

Environmental and Climate Education in K-12 Schools

Environmental and Climate Education in K-12 Schools

Environmental and Climate Education in K-12 Schools, By Avril Saunders, Environmental Consultant, CvCC

As the new school year starts, many students are taking classes like history, mathematics, and geography. These courses, along with several others, are the core of K-12 curriculums in the United States. However, when it comes to environmental or climate education, most students are not exposed to these subjects until high school or college.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is a nationwide, state-led program designed to provide holistic science teaching 


in K-12 schools for future education and professional development. Formed by 26 states and a panel of science and education organizations, the standards are based on three dimensions: crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas. The benchmarks are organized by grade level and outline specific goals that students should meet by the end of each school year.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have adopted NGSS while twenty-four states have chosen to administer their own standards based on the National Research Council’s K-12 Science Education Recommendations. The remaining 6 states, including Texas and Florida, do not participate in either option. With no laws to enforce environmental teaching standards, the progression of NGSS is limited to the discretion of school districts and individual classrooms. The lack of financial incentives to join NGSS limits resources to teach these subjects. Some educators try to avoid using phrases like “climate change” in their classrooms due to opposition from parents that do not believe in the concept.

Environmental and climate change education provides students with the opportunity to improve critical thinking, problem solving, and social skills. It expands the mindfulness of how individual behaviors can affect others. As current trends progress, younger generations stand to experience the effects of climate change at an intensified rate. It is important that they are given an education that creates an awareness of these concepts and the resources to develop solutions.

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