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Warm or cool?

Students, faculty discuss climate change education at HPS


By Max Hornak


The New York Times reports that some 150 million people are living on land that will be under high tide by mid-century.

Young people will be living with the effects of climate change for years to come, but educating them about the issue is the first step to the solution. Holt Public Schools’ policy on climate change is ever changing, but they may be falling short.

Freshman Brandon Martin said, “...we really don’t talk about climate change in school.”

Many students feel they could be learning more about climate change as opposed to other things that are done in the classroom.

Freshman Spencer Bartlett said, “...there’s so many things that we do in class that...I don’t use anymore. There’s so many others things we could be doing.”

Curriculum director Jessica Cotter explained when climate change is covered in the curriculum at Holt.

Cotter said, “climate change is addressed as a part of our Earth Science...There’s a thread of learning that happens starting in third grade through 11th grade.”

Cotter discussed the national switch to new standards in science, called the Next Generation Science Standards. The Next Generation Science Standards include many different standards relating to climate change and the Earth’s systems. Under the new standards, students are expected to use critical thinking to analyze, evaluate, and create.

“Our high school reformatted the Earth Science, Biology, and Physical Science courses...that whole reformatting was based on these new standards,” Cotter said.

Cotter also recalled past meetings where climate change was discussed.

“...About ten years ago, it would have been a thing where we were talking about how we should address it...but since it’s shifted, the research continues to be more consistent, that it really doesn’t seem to be a point of conversion,” Cotter said.

According to the United Nations, “education can encourage people to change their attitudes and behavior; it also helps them to make informed decisions. In the classroom, young people can be taught the impact of global warming and learn how to adapt to climate change. Education empowers all people, but especially motivates the young to take action.”

Further, climate change education in Holt does not start in elementary school, but in the middle school age group.

Cotter said, “I don’t think it’s introduced in the curriculum as a concept until, I want to say, fifth or sixth grade.”

Science teacher Stephen Potter is active in the fight against climate change and education on climate change.

Potter said, “...besides that one unit in Earth science, then it’s just kind of up to your particular teacher.”

Potter explained how he feels about the steps that the US and the world are taking to slow the effects of climate change. These steps are based on using fewer fossil fuels and stopping the production of greenhouse gases.

“...US has rejoined the Paris Climate accord, which is a big deal. So that’s good news. I think if you look at what we’ve done, though, and where we need to go, we have got a long way to go. So we’re, I guess you could say, we’re tapping the brakes. But we haven’t fully put on the brakes yet,” said Potter.

Potter went on to say he feels as though he has to be careful when teaching people about climate change due to the politicization of the topic.

“...If I say this political party, you know, [is] doing the wrong things, then people that identify with that are immediately going to be either offended or upset. They are not going to hear the message that we’re trying to put across…I have to tiptoe around it,” said Potter.

According to the Brookings Institute, a combination of the women's empowerment movement and the use of the education system could result in a reduction of 85 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that creates a blanket effect in the atmosphere and warms the planet. This warming effect is causing the issues associated with climate change such as rising sea levels, warming temperatures, and countless extreme weather events.

Potter said, “I definitely think as a school we can be doing things to make kids aware of it...make it, what can we do as a school to reduce our carbon footprint?”

Students across the world feel as though they could be learning more when it comes to climate change. According to Brookings, a survey from Europe found only four percent of students felt they were properly educated on climate change, 42 percent felt they have learned hardly anything, and 57 percent said they would like to learn more.

Science teacher Diane Janetzke is also a climate activist and works to educate young people on climate change. Janetzke is the Environmental Club advisor and was a key advocate for the school’s water bottle filling stations.

Janetzke said, “Our goals that we’re supposed to teach are definitely getting better, [but] it’s not awesome.”

PC: Max Hornak

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