Climate Education Policy in New York: Preparing Students for a Climate-Altered World
New York’s lack of comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and standardized K–12 climate education curricula highlights a gap in the state’s climate action plan. Education plays a key role in building climate literacy and encouraging sustainable behaviors. The climate crisis is complex and requires engaging students in systems thinking to gain a holistic understanding of its root causes, global impacts, and solutions, including preparing students to enter the growing green jobs sector. Existing learning standards and proposed legislation do not address these needs. Compulsory climate education across New York is necessary to prepare students for a climate-altered society, engage youth in climate discussions, model state leadership, and support economic competitiveness. Teachers, students, and parents want climate education, but gaps in New York’s education policies have left educators without the resources or bandwidth to teach it. Analysis of gaps in New York state policy, existing literature, and model programs, suggests that to increase student climate literacy, the state legislature should amend its education laws and create a K–12 climate education mandate with the following key components:
- An Office of Climate Literacy should be established either within the New York State Education Department or the Board of Regents.
- Curricula should be comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and justice-centered. They should be place-based, and solutions-oriented, and engage students in building relationships with their communities.
- Robust funding mechanisms should be identified to support schools, teacher training, and professional development, and for the creation of a task force—housed within a new state Office of Climate Literacy—to guide equitable implementation of the mandate.
- Resources for professional learning should be identified and developed, in collaboration with teachers.