More than two dozen states are expected to adopt new national science education standards that include teaching children as young as elementary school about the effects of climate change. Florida was not among the 26 states that helped to "provide leadership" during the development stage of the Next Generation Science Standards, and it is unclear if it is among the roughly 15 states "that have indicated they may accept them," according to Inside Climate News.
The standards were created by the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, nonprofit group Achieve, and participating states (click here to see a map of which states participated in the development of the standards.). They recommend "educators teach the evidence for man-made climate change starting as early as elementary school and incorporate it into all science classes, ranging from earth science to chemistry." Inside Climate News reports:
By eighth grade, students should understand that "human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth's mean surface temperature (global warming)," the standards say.
Despite the lack of early support from populous states like Florida and Texas, textbook publishers are already working to incorporate the new standards into printed and digital materials. Does its exclusion from the list of early adopters mean Florida schools aren't touching on the climate change subject? Not necessarily. Florida's Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, adopted in February 2008, do include a few "benchmarks" in which the topics of climate change and global warming get a mention.
For instance, a benchmark that calls for "weighing the merits of alternative strategies for solving a specific societal problem by comparing a number of different costs" includes mention of global climate change. Another benchmark asks educators to "describe changes in ecosystems resulting from seasonal variations, climate change, and succession." Both benchmarks are directed at the 9-12 grade level. To explore how subjects like climate change -- and other topics -- are covered under the Sunshine State Standards, use the CPALMS "keyword search" function.
Several conservative groups and think-tanks have expressed disapproval of the Next Generation Science Standards. The Heartland Institute cited the climate change stance as "unscientific speculation and hype," but said it has no intention of fighting the adoption of the standards. A 2012 Los Angeles Times story about climate change skepticism in the classroom compared it to the controversy surrounding evolution in schools -- a debate not unfamiliar in Florida -- and predicted the new national standards "could heat up local and state resistance in some areas."