Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Portland Public Schools First to Put Global Climate Justice in Classroom

Yes! So proud of this school and so happy to live in the Pacific Northwest. More and more are awakening and acting in the highest good for us all. Consciousness, courage, caring, and fierce compassionate action is contagious! Another world is possible! - Molly

 Students learn about the front lines of global warming 
and how to be climate activists.

In Tim Swinehart’s high school class in Portland, Oregon, students scroll through environmental blogs, occasionally pausing to jot down notes. Swinehart, a tall and lean 40-year-old with dark-rimmed glasses and light hair, floats around the room asking students what they plan to say during the Lobby for Clean Air Day in Salem next week, when they will meet with Democratic Senator Michael Dembrow. Along with their prepared speeches, students will make a case for clean air to Governor Kate Brown. The visit will serve as a class period, a field trip from this elective environmental justice class.
Two boys at different tables throw their voices across the divide to discuss cars. “The diesel particulate filters that they put in to capture all of that stuff, they take away from the performance, power and efficiency,” one says. This isn’t the car talk of newly licensed drivers. These teens are considering greenhouse gas emissions. Students here not only learn about the devastating effects of climate change, they’re also encouraged to be activists.
Lincoln High School is in its first year of a revolutionary pilot program for seniors and some juniors that teaches how climate change affects people around the world. In the rest of the city, the climate crisis is taught briefly in social studies and science classes, and some textbooks downplay global warming. But through involvement in local environmental activism, students in Swinehart’s class are encouraged to think of themselves as change makers.
“Climate education, especially in the age that we’re living in, needs to be a whole lot more bold than it is,” says Swinehart, who taught social studies before taking on this class, too. “Responsible climate justice education has to help kids see how they play a role in creating a better world.”
Since starting last fall, students have read books about activism, marched on City Hall, and given testimony in favor of progressive environmental initiatives at public hearings. Tyler Honn, 17, says the class has given him “much more confidence, a sense of agency and a sense of purpose that I absolutely didn’t have before.”
The class originated, in part, from a climate justice resolution drafted by a group of activists, teachers, students, and parents, and passed unanimously by Portland’s school board in May. It is the first comprehensive climate literacy policy in the country, and calls for Portland Public Schools to implement a climate justice curriculum. It also asks that schools abandon text materials that downplay the human impact on the climate crisis, and promises professional development and curriculum materials to school staff funded by the district. Although it’s only in the first year of its three-year implementation plan, the resolution has already inspired other cities to follow suit.
Supporters of the resolution say that classes like Swinehart’s are one of the best tactics to fight against the climate denial that has fueled President Trump’s attacks on environmental regulation and prompted a budget proposal that called for drastic funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. The nation’s largest teacher’s union, the National Education Association, endorsed the resolution in Washington, D.C. during its national convention in July. For many, Portland Public School’s climate justice resolution serves as an example of successful grassroots organizing and local advocacy, which may be the linchpin of progress as federal protections are eroded.

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