The New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS), the required curriculum of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), applies to the state’s 1.4 million public school students, making sure that education across the state is consistent and equitable. The standards are updated every five years and will be implemented in September 2021. This year, climate change education has become a mandatory part of the state’s educational standards.

“To be prepared for post-secondary success, students must become effective thinkers, problem solvers and communicators, and have the skills needed for high-skilled, high-demand jobs,” said the 2020 revision of the NJSLS. And the largest new addition to the standards is the new inclusion of seven standards of climate change education.

Under the new standards, climate change must now be included in seven areas already being taught: 21st Century Life and Careers, Health and Physical Education, Science, Social Studies, Technology, Visual and Performing Arts, and Languages. While some of those might not seem relevant under the climate change umbrella, the future shape of our planet affects all aspects of life. For instance, it’s more likely than not that rising equatorial temperatures will drive increasing immigration in the years to come, changing the language palate of many American cities. Art is the language of change and will certainly play its part in every change that happens. We’ve already seen the first steps of a massive shift in career patterns as automation changes what companies need and new fields like renewable energy open up.

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, wife of the state governor, was one of the main movers behind climate change education incorporation in the new curriculum. “[Climate change] is a really tangible problem that this generation of children will be required to face,” she said after the vote passing the new standards. Governor Murphy held climate change education up as a platform for his administration, calling it necessary to establish New Jersey as a leader in the green fight.

Photo: Young students gather in Helsinki, Finland, for a climate change protest rally. Credit: Subodh Agnihotri /