Not too long ago Coral Ben-Aharon, a 15-year-old sophomore at Granada Hills Charter High School, didn’t bother to use her school’s recycling bins — and didn’t know how plastic waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

But then her friend Sarah Ali convinced Coral to join the science team. Now the two are trying to invent a creative way to recycle waste on campus by melting discarded plastic and making a bench with solar panels, where students would be able to charge their school-issued Chromebooks.

Their project exemplifies how California’s science standards are taking hold in classrooms as educators seek to follow curriculum guidelines that call for more relevant, hands-on lessons and stronger instruction on climate change and the environment.

However, widespread science teacher shortages and the lack of training among many current teachers on climate change threatens the goals of the curriculum that aims in part to prepare students to be environmental problem-solvers as they enter adulthood. It also hinders an opportunity for educators to capture a newfound passion among those teenagers who are eager to engage in a growing youth climate activist movement, science educators say.

In 2016-17, about half of incoming California math and science teachers entered classrooms without full credentials, according to an analysis from the Learning Policy Institute.

To help address this gap, the University of California and California State University systems, which prepare 56% of the state’s pre-K through high school teachers, has launched a “Climate Change Literacy Project,” an initiative aimed at teaching teachers more about the topic and teaming them up with scientists to help.

A statewide summit this month drew about 200 educators and academics to UCLA, and a slate of the state’s top educator leaders were on hand to explain what is being done at the university level to train teachers.

Politics in the science classroom

CSU Chancellor Timothy White said the 23-campus system is “integrating climate and [environmental] sustainability courses across all of our academic disciplines” to help teachers enrolled in credentialing courses and other students.

Granada Hills chemistry teacher Jeanette Chipps, the science team advisor for Coral and Sarah, attended the symposium and knows firsthand about the challenges of fueling inquisitive minds.

Students enter her class often knowing about climate change as a big-picture topic, Chipps said. But they don’t know the science or history behind it.

Read more : Sonali Kohli : LA Times : 23 December 2019