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An Education Experiment in New Jersey

An Education Experiment in New Jersey

A statue of a studying student.

With many schools around the country implementing financial literacy or personal finance education requirements, we at Money Vehicle thought it would be interesting to point out a similar experiment happening in the great state of New Jersey.

New Jersey is and was the first state in the U.S. to implement a climate change education requirement. While that may be a touchier subject in some parts of the country than financial literacy education, it’s an interesting and novel attempt by one state to start instilling knowledge about a vastly complicated topic into the curriculum. And to do so, climate education is being sort of injected into all sorts of classes, including physical education.

As an aside, Money Vehicle has recommended a similar approach to financial literacy education in high schools. Teachers can work money lessons into other subjects with ease, in many cases, which may help form a more holistic approach to learning the material.

But back to New Jersey. Specifically, New Jersey passed a requirement for schools to teach climate change across grade levels in most subjects, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. In an attempt to promote “climate literacy,” as some are calling it, New Jersey set aside millions of dollars in grant money to help get educators up to speed, too. There’s also an educational hub for teachers to share and swap classroom materials. 

This is, in many ways, what Money Vehicle hopes to do for states around the country in relation to financial literacy education!

But with the 2022 school year having been the first year that schools were required to implement climate literacy into their curriculums, it’s worth asking: How is everything going? Despite some expected pushback from some parents’ groups and others, the results have been interesting. 

A recent story from NPR, published in August 2023, reports:

For students in New Jersey, like junior Lucy Webster at Hopewell Valley Central High, climate change education has been empowering.

Webster still thinks about the first time she learned about climate change, long before the state mandate.

“As a little kid, I was really scared of the changes in the extreme weather that was going on around me and missing school because of hurricanes,” she said.

Her 5th grade science teacher Helen Corveleyn helped.

“Her telling me why these were happening made me feel like I could do something about it even though I was like 11,” Webster said.

Today, Webster helps lead the Youth Environmental Society at her high school.

The group, which McGrath mentors, is working on a climate action plan with parents, teachers and students. Their goals include getting their school to transition to electric buses and to train guidance counselors in climate mental health awareness.

The students also want climate change to be taught in every classroom.

In June, the group wrote a letter to the New Jersey Board of Education urging the board to adopt the new English Language Arts and math standards that would include climate change. The board is reviewing the standards and an official vote has not been set.

From that snippet, there’s clearly something resonating with some students. Again, this is similar to what Money Vehicle hopes to achieve in the financial literacy realm.

More media coverage, like a June 2023 story from the New York Times, adds a little more perspective from teachers:

At a recent conference in New Jersey about integrating the climate standards into primary schools, several educators said they were daunted about adding climate science to their lesson plans, especially given educational setbacks their students suffered during the pandemic.

They also said they needed more guidance. The state has set aside $5 million for climate change education grants, drawing applications from nearly half of New Jersey’s school districts.

Still, in a recent small survey of educators, Dr. Madden, the early education specialist, found that more than three-quarters worried that climate change might not be a priority in their district because of lack of subject expertise. Concerns about controversy have increased, too — with the percentage of educators who said teachers might avoid it because it was politically sensitive nearly doubling to 17 percent between June 2022 and December 2022.

Yet educators at the conference roundly agreed that climate change should be taught to give students a sense of agency that could allay the climate anxiety that is especially pronounced for young people worldwide.

While Money Vehicle and climate policy may not have much overlap, we wanted to point out a recent example of a complicated topic being implemented in a large state across several disciplines. Educating a new generation requires a lot — funding, strategy, and confident teachers and administrators — and when it comes to money, Money Vehicle is there to be your guide!

Check out the Money Vehicle textbook — you can find it here on Amazon. And if you like what you see, you can get more content sent directly to your inbox! Sign up for the Money Vehicle Movement Newsletter!

And check out our white paper: “Strategies for Increasing Financial Literacy Rates Among High School and College Students”

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