Kay Nowell is a veteran science teacher in the St. Michael-Albertville public schools. Still, she feels the need to tread lightly when the topic of climate change comes up in her classroom. Despite the facts, teaching climate change can bring a political backlash from parents and others who doubt the science.
“That’s always in the back of my mind,” she said, “because I want to teach kids, but I don’t want to push that envelope where I’m going to get a parent phone call.”
It’s one reason why Nowell and teachers across the state are welcoming proposed science education standards that would, for the first time in Minnesota, teach that humans are the primary cause of climate change.
While some educators already teach about humans’ impact on the climate, they say writing it into state standards would be added muscle if they face pushback from students or parents. And it would help ensure the topic gets taught.
“The more we can get it to be the norm, the easier my job would be because then it’s like, well I’m teaching what is required here because it’s been proven,” said Nowell, a high school teacher. “I’m not on my own.”
The Minnesota science education standards get an update every 10 years. A committee of K-12 educators, higher education representatives and community members create and revise the standards during a monthslong review and approval process.
Once they’re in place, teachers’ coursework must align with statewide standards, although individual educators and districts still have final say in how they present concepts to students.
Members of the public have opportunities to comment before the final standards take effect. So far, there has been a mix of reactions to the new climate change standards, said Josh Collins, the Minnesota Department of Education’s director of communications. No staff from the department sit on the committee writing the standards.
Click here to read the transcript of the piece that ran on Minnesota Public Radio (December 11, 2018)