Students are rocking some major change, both inside and outside of school. When she first started striking from school on Fridays, Greta Thunberg was alone. Her simple action galvanized millions of young people worldwide to protest the lack of action on climate. This culminated in the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019. In the U.S., some school districts allowed students to leave for the protests without penalty in New York, Chicago, Portland, and Michigan; and in Los Angeles, schools held “walk-ins.”
In school, students have organized climate change clubs, planted vegetable gardens, implemented zero-waste programs, lobbied to add solar panels and replace their heating and cooling systems with heat pumps. Students have helped replace diesel fueled school buses with electric and put charging stations into their parking lots to encourage electric cars. Some kids have even been successful in pressuring teacher’s unions to divest from fossil fuels in their pension funds.
Climate education in school is crucial.
New Jersey became the first state to add climate change into their curriculum for all K-12 students in June 2020. In Boston, public school students from the Boston Student Advisory Council and dedicated science teachers came together to create Climate Curriculum, a framework of lessons to incorporate climate change education into K-12 science lessons. It also recommends resources. Other states are lagging far behind, with only 36 states and Washington D.C. explicitly acknowledging the reality of climate change in their standards; the rest reference the human role as a possibility or a matter of scientific debate, or omit it entirely. This is a place where you can use your voice to teach your teachers about the issues.
Efforts to amend school district curriculum have found success in Portland, Idaho, and Oakland. With the help of the local Sierra Club, a student group pushed through a resolution that integrates climate literacy into the curriculums of all Oakland public schools. Erin Ahlich, who was part of the Oakland student group, said the “most impactful” action was attending school board meetings, where the group gave speeches and presented signed petitions. Students in Utah also organized with petitions, driving their school district to a 100% clean energy commitment.
Kids are also using school projects to take direct action. In this 2018 video Sleepy Hollow School students in Westchester explain and promote the virtues of electric cars.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Illustrations by Kathleen Founds