New Zealand schools to teach kids about climate change

Updated curriculum will help them to navigate the emotions associated with the climate crisis.

New Zealand has introduced new curriculum in its public schools to educate children about climate change. It is not mandatory, but made available to all schools with students between the ages of 11 and 15. One of its main goals is to alleviate the ‘eco-anxiety' that afflicts so many young people who are already engaged in the climate change discussion, but may be lacking support and guidance from adults around them.

James Shaw, the country's climate change minister, told the Guardian that kids are “really crying out for something like this.” They're hearing that climate change is an “existential threat to civilization,” that the future is uncertain, that immediate action is required, and they don't know where to turn or what to do next:

“They’re seeing stuff on social media on a daily basis and none of it’s good news, and the sense of powerlessness that comes from that is extremely distressing.”

Part of the curriculum's focus is on processing the intense emotions associated with climate change. These include coping with a sense of defeatism and working through the anger and betrayal that many young people feel toward older generations whose decisions got us in this mess and are consistently failing to take action now. This is done by providing students with a ‘feelings thermometer' that helps interpret and discuss their emotions. The curriculum guides students to take on environmental action plans, e.g. creating an edible garden, which can mitigate feelings of depression and helplessness.

It delves into climate change science, too. Education minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement:

“It explains the role science plays in understanding climate change, aids understanding of both the response to it and its impacts – globally, nationally and locally – and explores opportunities to contribute to reducing and adapting to it impact on everyday life.”

It's great to see New Zealand understanding that children and adolescents want and need to be part of the global climate change conversation. New Zealand's plan follows in the footsteps of Italy, which also has plans to add climate change curriculum by September 2020, first as a standalone course, and eventually integrated into every subject.

Updated curriculum will help them to navigate the emotions associated with the climate crisis.