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NJ First Lady Tammy Murphy visits U., speaks to public school teachers about climate education

First Lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy spoke with public school educators from across the state last week about climate education. – Photo by Amanda Stellwag

On Thursday, First Lady of New Jersey Tammy Murphy spoke to middle and high school educators at the New Jersey Warming Climate: Climate Change Workshop held at the Rutgers University Inn and Conference Center on Cook campus.

The workshop's objective is to guide teachers in incorporating climate change education into classrooms across the state, according to an event flyer from the Rutgers New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center.

During the workshop, educators were offered access to the University's climate-related resources, provided opportunities to engage with Rutgers climate experts in discussions and given the chance to listen to speakers like New Jersey State Climatologist David Robinson.

Elizabeth Nunez, the supervisor of science for elementary schools in the New Brunswick Public School District, said she was excited to participate in the workshop because it would prepare her to bring climate change awareness to her district.

She said the event gives educators like herself a chance to explore sustainability through local community involvement and to learn about projects that other school districts are working on.

"I would like to emphasize this idea of local and global because there is a lot that the students can do at a young age, locally, but then they can use that as they continue on in their education to apply that globally," Nunez said.

In an interview with The Daily Targum, Murphy said that an early introduction to climate education could enable students to gain a deep understanding of climate change and related vocabulary, which they will be able to utilize in the future to expand their skills and knowledge.

"We are preparing people for life here because you need all disciplines to understand the vocabulary and be able to flourish," she said.

Nunez said that her district is currently examining the dilemma of making climate change education engaging for various age groups while ensuring that the material is comprehensive.

In 2020, Murphy announced that New Jersey would become the first state to mandate climate change education within its public schools starting in the 2022-2023 academic year, according to a press release.

The New Jersey Board of Education authorized that climate change be added to seven standards, including health and physical education, science, social studies, technology, visual and performing arts, world languages and 21st century life and careers, according to the release.

Murphy said she promotes climate education wherever she goes because educating students about the climate will help them contribute to economic sustainability.

Nunez said she appreciates discussing climate education and collaborating with others to bring it to students from kindergarten to 12th grade. One thing Nunez said she wants to incorporate into climate education is connecting students with local community members and young climate leaders like Greta Thunberg.

She said these connections can help inspire students to take action and make a difference in their own communities.

"I am overall very excited that we are doing this because it is a big deal. Not only because we have the new standards, but if we come together and address these problems now, then I am very confident that we will be able to tackle some of those issues early on," Nunez said.

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