Last week our school community (children, parents, teachers, and administration) had quite a lesson in civics.
Well before the first week of school, Brooklyn New School teachers had been planning for Friday, the day of the International Climate Strike. Curriculum had been updated and the school wide focus on sustainability had developed a sense of urgency, what with Greta Thunberg calling for young people and all of us to take action. Fall weather in North Carolina and the Bahamas, not to mention southeast Texas had all been in the news.
There was a time when climate change was not a part of the elementary school curriculum, but in the last ten years, this has changed, and children as young as five understand that the planet is warming up. At many a spring Ecorama, I have listened, astounded as fifth grade students explain the science behind climate change. If only I understood what was happening as well as they did.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” A young girl from Sweden has put adults to shame as she leads her fellow youth citizens in a quest to change environmental policy so that our children can live a sustainable future. According to Al Gore in yesterday’s New York Times, it’s not too late. He writes, “To address the climate crisis, we must address the democracy crisis so that the people themselves can reclaim control of their destiny.”
And that’s what happened on Friday. A last minute mandate put out by the DOE and buried in a link connected to instructions on how to address students walking out of school became known to many because of an article in Chalkbeat, the night of September 19th. We delivered the disappointing news with an email via Konstella. But teachers disagreed. Hence the majority of our upper grade staff and kids continued with the planned curriculum in Coffey Park, away from the thousands alongside Greta Thunberg in Foley Square where BNS graduate, Otto English, can be seen in a powerful position.
As Ophelia DeAlva, a fifth grade student in Michael and Rachel’s class, told her mom,“It’s CLIMATAL, not political!” Or as second grade teacher, Penina, lamented, “It’s scary that science is considered a point of view.”
Climate Change is real as is democracy. On Friday, our students learned a lot. They shared their understanding of the power of climate change and their awareness that change in human behavior could slow down the warming of the planet. And they recognized the importance of taking actions not because someone says you can, but because you must.
Consider these words, all seen in posters made by second grade students in Maria’s class:
Sophia Reinfeld, a fourth grade student in Jess and Carrie’s class put it best, “I think they shouldn’t say that we can’t do this. This thing is something that they should care about. They shouldn’t only care about the rules and what public schools aren’t supposed to teach. This isn’t only this school’s earth, it’s their earth. They should care that their climate is changing and that global warming is killing creatures in the rainforest, it could kill us too. At this point of time where it’s getting really really bad, we shouldn’t care about what’s being taught in the school. We should care that the school is going to change the world to keep us alive.”
The civics lesson of Friday is one that our children will take with them into the future. As Isabel Brennan, a third grade student in Katherine’s class, said, “It felt downright amazing. It felt great standing up for the earth. I felt really free.”
All for now,
© 2018. All rights reserved.
WordPress theme: Dameer DJ. Photos: Justin Weiner