Proposed Climate Action Course for SD40 Schools

NWSS students say the climate crisis is not taught well enough in schools.

Should the New Westminster School District create a high school course dedicated to the climate crisis?

It was one of the ideas that emerged at the School District 40 board meeting on Feb. 22, when students from New Westminster High School’s environmental club made a presentation to trustees.

Students told administrators that the climate crisis is not discussed enough in schools – and when it is, the focus is too much on individual actions and not the larger systemic picture.

Mark Zavorotny told the council that he took eight science lessons during his time at New Westminster High School. In all that time, he said, he can remember only one instance where he learned about climate science – with an eight-page chapter in an IB biology course.

“Eight pages over four years – that’s terribly low,” he said, adding that it was the universal experience of students who discussed the issue with the club.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time. It’s an existential threat that will affect everyone and literally doom us all if we don’t do something about it,” he said. “So it’s quite disappointing to see that it’s not really integrated into any of our courses.”

When the climate crisis is discussed, Zavorotny said, there is a lack of attention to how climate change is a systemic problem.

“Although only 100 companies are responsible for 70% of global emissions, things we heard in our school…all focused on individual action: turn off your lights when you leave the room. Put the fire down. Go to school by bike instead of driving. Take public transit if possible,” he said. “All of this is great and necessary, but it also ignores how the systems we live in perpetuate themselves and are really responsible for climate change.”

Grace Hodges agreed.

“What does it do to create climate movements for students when you tell them that the most important thing they can do in their immediate life is, like, ‘Turn off the light,’ instead of ‘ Hey, connect with your community; start getting organized.

Veronica Popova reminded the directors that the climate crisis is not only an ecological problem but also a social one.

“What if we had a course that kind of combined the science side of the climate crisis and the social justice side of the climate crisis, because they’re both very important,” she said.

Locally developed course could cover geography, social justice, indigenous issues: fiduciary

The idea of ​​creating a climate course was supported by Councilor Anita Ansari, who suggested that a locally developed course could help fill this gap. In BC, school districts can create what are called BAA (for “Board/Authority Approved”) courses based on requirements set by the Department of Education.

“I think there’s a really good opportunity here to have something that covers so many different aspects of teaching. There is the geography part. There is the social justice component. There are the local events that we, our community and the communities of BC have been through,” she said, citing issues such as major BC storms that caused flooding. last year’s catastrophic wildfires in British Columbia and how the pandemic initially changed carbon dioxide levels.

Ansari added that it would also be helpful to incorporate an indigenous perspective.

“I think it’s a really good educational opportunity to have something that unifies all of those pieces, because I feel like from my perspective as a parent of a smaller child, it it’s really hard to wrap your arms around the whole thing,” she said. noted.

Iain Lancaster, deputy director of district planning who leads SD40’s climate action work, agreed that there is plenty of information available to create a course on climate action or the climate crisis.

He also told the students he understood their frustration with the speed of change on the climate action front.

“I would be the first to say that, not only from a personal point of view but from a generational point of view, we have ignored this climate crisis for too long. We old people have been guilty of not acting for too long,” he said.

What has the New Westminster School District done about climate change?

The New Westminster School Board passed a sweeping climate action motion in November 2019.

The motion committed council to include a long-term climate action plan in its strategic plan, including setting measurable goals to reduce the district’s greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Panel’s recommendations. intergovernmental experts on climate change (IPCC).

He also called on the district to provide leadership and support on climate literacy and environmental sustainability to students and staff at New Westminster schools.

Since then, it has pursued a wide range of projects and activities to advance these goals, including requesting funding for capital projects (such as heat pumps and LED lighting) to improve energy efficiency. of schools, upgrading taps to help conserve water, providing climate knowledge resources for teachers and offering grants for projects such as school gardens, field trips and waste reduction.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, [email protected]

About Stuart M. McFarland

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