Turning up the heat on climate request 1

Advocates wanting a statewide inclusion of standalone climate change lessons in K-12 public schools across the state rallied on the steps of City Hall last Wednesday, which was Earth Day, to support a City Council resolution asking for the education.

Last Wednesday, on Earth Day, City Council members stood on the steps of City Hall to drum up support for Resolution 375, introduced last August, which calls for climate-change education to be part of kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum statewide.

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Alliance for Climate Education — which gives presentations on climate change to schools — the Natural Resources Defense Council and the youth advocacy group Global Kids, Inc. were also present.

Some members of Global Kids are students living in parts of Western Queens that were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

The resolution, which acts as a non-binding request to the state Department of Education, would make climate change a standalone lesson, as opposed to a shorter dedicated segment of a school’s larger science program.

“It should be part of every conversation we have,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said last Monday. “Everything we do, climate change has had an impact on our lives.”

Constantinides, the resolution’s main sponsor, added that the next generation of students are “stewards of the planet” but are not getting the right tools at the right time.

“The Earth is our responsibility. In order to care for it, we need to know the facts about climate change,” Kazi Ateea, 16, a Global Kids student leader, said in a statement. “We need climate education for all students.”

Constantinides said that there would not be a reason to take anything out of existing lessons to make room for the required lessons if the state were to accommodate them.

He stressed that he’s not an educator, but that the resolution’s sponsors are simply asking to have a conversation about the curriculum proposal with the state.

“The disruption of our climate caused by the burning of fossil fuels is an issue that will affect the lives of all New Yorkers across the state (and beyond) for decades to come,” Eric Goldstein, NYC environment director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “It makes perfect sense that our schools adopt a comprehensive, broad-based curriculum so that our children will be knowledgeable about the facts of global warming and the multiple ways in which their lives will be impacted, so they can be better prepared to deal with changing weather patterns.”

Constantinides also said that no one has spoken to him about how much enacting such a program would cost.

“We’ve seen overwhelming support so far,” Constantinides said, adding that the education should be dynamic and interactive in a way that prompts young people to later come up with climate change solutions that people would be “dumbfounded by.”

Councilmembers Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) are also co-sponsors.

The resolution is still with the City Council’s Education Committee.

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