Climate Change In the Classroom

Posted by Karen Colaric on 10/25/2018

With climate change, like many social justice issues, kids have various information, perspectives, and feelings about what others raise in discussions. As thoughts, concerns, and a desire to take action unfold around us, Amida Cary, Kindergarten teacher, talks about the educator’s approach here at Park Day. “We let kids lead, and keep a hand on the tiller of the discussion,” she says. “This takes reading the kids at the time of the talk.” At all grades we approach climate change through the lense of both scientific inquiry and environmental justice while maintaining a heightened awareness of class communities and the range of awareness and emotional understanding within.

Every Wednesday at Park Day School, educators gather together at lunch to think about how best to support the kids in talking about climate change, and how we as individuals and as a community can make a difference. Our educators use resources like Project Drawdown, an online resources that gathers and facilitates a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions that could have an impact over the next thirty years.

There are many projects bubbling up in teachers minds/hearts and on various parts of our campus, to help kids learn clean/alternate ways of building, cleaning, growing food, eating, watering. In the classrooms, our curriculum and class meetings may introduce and respond to what is happening in the world as it relates to climate change, in developmentally appropriate ways. This week the Kindergarten class visited East Bay MUD Headquarters to collect acorns for planting, and learn more about the oak woodland habitat that hosts 1300 species. They visited both the tree nursery and the EBMUD Fire Rig, and learned that all EBMUD rangers are trained as firefighters.

Kindergarten students at EBMUD   Kindergarteners at EBMUD collecting pinecones

Last week as the 5th grade explores watersheds, they spent half the week at Nature Bridge in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Nature Bridge fosters environmental literacy to sustain our planet. After returning from this immersive field work experience, the class is continuing their studies about the environmental benefits of marshes and other wetlands.

5th graders at Nature Bridge   5th graders at Nature Bridge

Many of us have been following the case of Juliana v United States, 21 youths suing the U.S. government for the right to live in a stable climate. As we think about our role as educators teaching students about their power to make change, educators may be using this case as a way to share how sometimes, operating within a system can be a powerful way to amplify our voices. Whether or not the Supreme Court issues a stay delaying the court case, there will be a rally on Monday, October 29 from 3 - 6 pm in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals at 95 7th Street, San Francisco. Many of our educators will be attending after the school day on Monday.

In our own community, 2nd grade, students have a climate petition in mind- asking that the school use only clean energy. Clean energy has been an ideal for us for years, and parents interested in participating in our Green School Alliance should join the group on ParentSquare. In addition, the Social Justice Initiative is organizing an Environmental Justice Symposium on Saturday, March 16, 2019 featuring break-out workshops and speakers from local organizations. Save the date, and stay tuned.

In Community,
Karen Colaric, Lower School Director