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Survey: More Climate Education Needed in NYC Schools


Monday, December 27, 2021   

Just 52% of NYC teachers teach climate change. An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated the percentage. (11:43 a.m. EST., Dec. 28, 2021)

CORRECTION: Just 52% of NYC teachers teach climate change. An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated the percentage. (11:43 a.m. EST., Dec. 28, 2021)

A new survey found that just 52% of New York City public school educators teach their students about climate change, and many reported they have not been trained to teach the subject.

Proponents of climate education hope to make a change statewide. The Climate and Resilience Education Task Force, along with the National Wildlife Federation and the United Federation of Teachers, sent the survey to teachers across the city, and 1,500 responded.

Emily Fano, senior education manager for the Wildlife Federation in New York City and co-founder of the Task Force which commissioned the survey, said most students get climate change information outside the classroom, and more knowledge could better equip them to handle the climate crisis going forward.

"There's a lot of climate anxiety out there among our youth," Fano observed. "We believe that learning about climate change is a way to take action, to feel empowered."

Only half the teachers who said they teach climate change are provided classroom materials, and only one in five say climate education was covered in their student-teacher training.

Fano's group is pushing legislation in the state Senate Education Committee to require climate science in statewide high school curricula. Fano thinks the topic should expand beyond high school classes, including grades from Kindergarten up.

"We really have lost an incredible amount of time that students needed to learn about this crisis," Fano contended. "We have looked at the mandate because it may be the fastest way to get climate instruction into the classroom."

Nearly 60% of the survey respondents said they support a mandate to teach about climate change. Fano added New York has a chance to set an example for other states and nations.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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