Protesters hold posters about climate change.

Students get much-requested climate change curriculum


In Portland Public Schools, students asked for opportunities to learn about climate change--and now, an innovative new curriculum will launch

Portland Public Schools (PPS) is partnering with Portland General Electric Company on the creation of a comprehensive K-12 curriculum exploring the causes and consequences of climate change, along with potential solutions.

This partnership is a direct response to student advocacy. In 2016, local students and climate justice advocates reached out to the Portland Public Schools Board of Education to ask for comprehensive climate literacy including understanding the root causes of climate change and potential solutions to address its effects.

Related content: Challenge-Based Learning engages students

Since then, a board resolution was passed and both community and district efforts have taken place to create curriculum and hire a new–and first in country–programs manager for climate change and climate justice.

The partnership and PGE’s three-year $250,000 investment to The Fund for Portland Public Schools allows PPS to do even more innovative work and aims to give PPS students, and others, access to cutting-edge educational experiences by providing students opportunities for authentic civic engagement.

“This is the first major investment to The Fund for PPS,” says Victoria Lara, board chair for The Fund for PPS. “What a great example of investing directly into a program that is so student centered and important to our community.”

Once developed, the curriculum, training materials and best practices will be open source, meaning all the resources will be publicly available for other districts to implement and tailor for their schools.

The elementary and middle school curriculum will be standards-based and designed with intentional connections across content areas to promote transdisciplinary learning. The high school elective will be standards-based (science and social studies/ethnic studies) and co-designed with educators, students and community experts. By anchoring the course in inquiry and project-based learning, students in classrooms across our district will be able to research a climate justice issue of their choosing and propose evidence-based solutions to address the issue.

“With the growing global concern regarding climate change, PPS is taking an innovative approach and bold stance to support educators and students by developing relevant climate justice curriculum and activities” says Guadalupe Guerrero, superintendent of PPS. “Making this curriculum easily accessible, will help bolster our efforts in both curriculum development and with supporting our youth’s growing understanding and advocacy on this important topic.”

“Our students have called for more authentic opportunities to engage with the community around issues of climate justice. We are excited to partner with experts in the field like PGE employees, who can offer real-world expertise to support learning and serve as content experts during the curriculum development,” says Nichole Berg, programs manager for Climate Change and Climate Justice at Portland Public Schools

In addition to funding, PGE employees will participate as content experts, co-creating supplemental classroom materials and project-based learning opportunities that will help students understand the important role of clean energy in reducing carbon and fighting climate change. PPS and a group of students, educators, frontline community members, government organizations, community organizations, and industry leaders will convene to inform the curriculum development.

“It is essential that we work together, forging public and private partnerships to combat climate change and meet Oregon’s clean energy goals,” said Maria Pope, PGE president and CEO. “Our partnership with Portland Public Schools enables direct engagement with students and teachers that will explore real-world climate problems and innovative solutions.”

The full implementation of the K-12 social studies and science curriculum will launch in PPS schools in Fall 2021.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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