A student-driven and student-led proposal to require Climate Justice Education Curriculum from elementary through high school has been introduced by Senator Lindsey Port (DFL-Burnsville) and Representative Sydney Jordan (DFL-Minneapolis). The legislation (SF666/HF550) would require Climate Justice Education curriculum to be provided in all core subjects for Minnesota’s students.
“This is a bill for and led by students who understand the existential threat and challenge of climate change, and the many ways it is interwoven into the wide issues of justice and inequity that threaten Minnesotans throughout this state, ” said Senator Port, “This bill will provide our students and future leaders a curriculum that focuses not just on climate change’s effects, but on the need for finding solutions that get at the core issues of justice and fairness in addressing this crisis.”
This proposal was first drafted by the Youth Environmental Activists (YEA!) Network, a student-led program of Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, that has advocated for a well-rounded curriculum to teach not only the effects and outcomes of climate change but also the connection between climate change and socioeconomic justice issues.
“Schools must prepare students to understand how climate change will define their future, and young people are already leading on solutions like this bill,” said Sarah Goodspeed, Senior Youth and Policy Manager at Climate Generation. “Climate change is interdisciplinary; it impacts every part of our lives differently, as Minnesotans and as humans. This means in the classroom as well, intersecting beyond the sciences. Young people are leading on climate justice to protect their changing future that older generations have put in danger.”
Climate change will drastically change all our lives in the near future. It is already affecting many Minnesotans in a variety of ways, from increased flooding destroying crops in Southern MN to heat deserts in the cities. Given the complexity of the systemic causes of climate change, from its man-made fingerprint to its wide and disproportionately experienced effects, students should have the opportunity to learn about this issue that will change all our futures.
“I believe this bill will facilitate the widespread understanding of systemic oppression and climate change in Minnesota,” said Indigo Davitt-Liu, one of the youth authors in the YEA! Network. “I hope developing this widespread understanding of these complex issues will lead to the development of climate solutions in the future that take people into account and lead to a just future. I also hope students will be able to better place their own experiences with climate change into a broad framework, allowing them to feel empowered to create change at high levels.”
Education around climate change should also promote critical thinking in students and utilize a climate justice lens. Climate justice is a framework that puts people first and views the effects of climate change as interconnected with forms of oppression connecting climate change to social and economic justice issues.
“Climate justice education is necessary because it provides accessible resources to students on climate education while introducing relevant climate related societal issues and solutions,” said Annie Chen of YEA! Network. “I hope that by integrating Climate Justice Education into schools, casual classroom conversations surrounding societal issues will be normalized.”
“I am excited for the bill because it puts importance on climate justice rather than just education on climate change. It’s important to be educated on climate justice at an early age because the younger generation will be leaders in achieving climate justice,” said Maya Hidalgo of YEA! Network. “I hope that climate justice education will become a necessary topic to incorporate into all schools throughout the world. I hope that all students will be equipped with education on the importance of climate justice, employment opportunities, and solutions!”
The bill has two major requirements:
- Climate Justice Education to be provided in all core subjects from elementary through high school
- The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) along with teachers, students, and field experts, to gather resources and put out example activities to teach Climate Justice. It also includes seven themes of how climate justice education can be defined.
“Climate change requires us to consider a time beyond the present and practice individual responsibility around a societal issue important to our future. This student-led proposal will create a space in our education system that will prepare the future generations to tackle environmental problems and their intersectional relationship with justice issues.” said Rep. Jordan. “Including climate change in the curriculum will breed new solutions and encourage excellence in both social and natural sciences.”