What does the education sector need to do in order to respond to the challenges of climate change? Educators and leaders are already driving impact in their schools and communities — embracing evidence-based solutions, innovative practices, and an emerging consensus around education as a key lever for climate action. How can we broaden that vision and scale that impact? These questions and more were explored at a Harvard Graduate School of Education convening on Education and Climate Action, a half-day event that welcomed education and policy leaders from around the country to the Askwith Hall stage to grapple with the most pressing issues at the intersection of education and climate — and look toward meaningful solutions.
"Climate change is not a future problem; climate change is already happening, and it affects us all,” said Dean Bridget Long, kicking off the event. But the most serious consequences of climate disruption are not being felt equally, she said. “Climate change is exacerbating educational inequality. It is now another important cause of the inequities that so many of us are working hard to address. So we need to take action…..And with about 70 million students enrolled in school from PreK through postsecondary education, one in five Americans are currently connected to the education sector, making education a critical lever for change. What we do matters.”
Highlights from the convening:
Session #1: Education and Climate Change
Moderator: Dean Bridget Long; Tina Grotzer, principal research scientist, Project Zero; Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education and director, Global Education Innovation Initiative; and Laura Schifter, lecturer, HGSE, and senior fellow, Aspen Institute's This Is Planet Ed
"The time is now for us to do this…. The impacts are here today. Students, families, and communities are feeling them all across the country and the world, and that is only going to increase. So the time is now. Education is going to be critical for solutions." – Laura Schifter
Session #2: Education Leaders Driving Climate Action
Moderator: Jennifer Cheatham, senior lecturer and faculty co-chair, Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship master's program; Monica Goldson, CEO, Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland; Ben Mackey, board member, Dallas Independent School District and executive director, The Texas Impact Network; and LeeAnn Kittle, director of sustainability, Denver Public Schools
"We have to change adult habits. Our children are so far along and ready to move us forward. It's us, and we have to own that it's us, and we have to do something different." – Monica Goldson
Session #3: Acting Now for a Better Future
Dean Bridget Long; Spencer Glendon, founder of Probable Futures and senior fellow of the Woodwell Climate Research Center; and Jim Stock, vice provost for climate and sustainability, Harvard University, and director, The Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability at Harvard University
In any theory of change, especially in the area of climate, “a piece of that has to be education of our youth, education of our youngest citizens — helping them understand, in a very constructive way, how the world is changing and how they can be part of having that change be something that’s going to be OK for them.... That’s an incredibly important challenge for everybody." — Jim Stock
"Climate change isn’t just about warmer temperatures. It’s about the potential loss of stability. In a less stable world, we’re going to need a new skill: climate awareness. We need to be aware of the world around us. We need to bring the physical world into our lives." – Spencer Glendon
- This is Planet Ed: an initiative from the Aspen Institute to spur climate action across the K-12 ecosystem
- Climate, Kids, and Health: Resources to keep children healthy in a changing world, from the Harvard T.H. Chan Schools's Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment
- Education and Climate Change: The Role of Universities, by Fernando Reimers
- EcoLearn: a series of research and curricular initiatives to explore the use of advanced immersive technologies to support learning about ecosystems.
- Report: The Future of Climate Education at Harvard University
- A conversation about what schools can do to combat climate change with Laura Schifter on the Harvard EdCast.