This academic year may be winding down, but schools in New Jersey are already preparing to add climate change to their lesson plans for September.

Updated learning standards adopted in June 2020 will be implemented when students return from summer break.

The move made New Jersey the first state in the nation to incorporate climate change education in grades K through 12.

The standards adopted by the state Board of Education call for climate change instruction across several content areas: career readiness; life literacies and key skills; comprehensive health and physical education; computer science and design thinking; science; social studies; visual and performing arts; and world languages.

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"Many of the children who enter kindergarten this coming September will likely live into the 22nd century," said Larry Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association. "The future that awaits them will be greatly impacted, to say the least, by global warming."

NJSBA, along with Sustainable Jersey, released a 36-page report earlier this year to help schools incorporate the necessary instruction throughout their curricula. Included in the report was a series of recommendations for schools to get in line with by June 2022.

"By teaching the topic across subject areas, as is required by the new learning standards, the goal is to give the leaders of tomorrow the full breadth of what they need to know to find and implement solutions," Randy Solomon, executive director of Sustainable New Jersey, said with the release of the report.

In general, schools are advised to center their climate change education on what is happening locally — approaches that emphasize New Jersey-specific effects of climate change are likely to have more of an impact on students.

Schools are also being told to highlight the disproportionate impacts of climate change seen by communities of color, immigrant communities, and low-income communities.

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