On most school days, Sanford Middle School teacher Diana Allen rises at 4:30 a.m. to thumb through the latest edition of Cosmos or National Geographic, a cup of coffee in hand, in hopes of keeping up with the latest climate science news.

She is hunting for compelling, curated information about the most important scientific issue of our time to share with the seventh-graders in her science classes. It wasn’t a topic covered when the 49-year-old was learning how to be a teacher.

“Science is always changing,” Allen said. “The basic building blocks may be the same, but what we know about climate science is growing and changing every day. It’s almost impossible to keep up. You want to be up to date, but you’ve got to be 100 percent accurate, too.”

That is why Allen supports a proposal before the Legislature to create a $3 million state grant program to encourage school districts to partner with nonprofit community-based organizations to build and implement climate science training plans for teachers.

Nearly 100 teachers, students and environmental advocates including Maine Audubon and Sierra Club of Maine on Tuesday urged the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee to adopt the bill, which would help achieve one of the education goals in Maine’s climate action plan.

High school sophomore Audrey Hufnagel of Damariscotta said she learned about the basics of climate science, but no single classroom unit covered the extent of the impact or what she could do about it. That’s more than many Maine students, but still not enough, she said.

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“It will be my generation who will have to deal with the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but we cannot do that if we are not provided the proper knowledge and skills, which is not currently happening in many Maine schools,” Hufnagel said.

Teachers can hone their skills through professional development, but Allen, the past board president of the Maine Science Teachers Association, said most teacher training focuses on how to teach, not what. During the pandemic, training has focused almost exclusively on virtual learning.

No one spoke against teaching the latest climate science to Maine students. The bill does not have unanimous support, however.

In written testimony, the Maine Principals’ Association argued that climate education is already covered by Maine schools. It expressed concerns about the program’s costs and said that money “could be used in better manners to further education.”

The Maine Department of Education took no official position on the bill. In written testimony, the department’s chief innovation officer, Page Nichols, noted the state already has joined other states to adopt new science standards that include climate science education.

In March, the agency will release the first of two packages of teaching-developed learning modules for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that will focus on climate science, Nichols said. The state will offer free training to teachers on how to incorporate these plans into their classrooms.

The Legislature’s Education Committee will take up the proposal Tuesday before deciding whether to recommend it to the House and Senate.


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