Climate Change Hits Home

According to NASA, the earth's average surface temperature has increased approximately 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s, with most warming occurring in the last 40 years, particularly the past seven. For Evangelina Peña, teaching our middle schoolers about climate change has become a critical mission, and she has developed innovative ways to educate her students and make this crucial topic more assessable.

As a result, the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education (ANJEE) invited Ms. Peña to serve as a panelist at a recent conference titled Climate Science, Climate Change, and Climate Education, which focused on how climate change is affecting our coastlines, storms, and overall climate in New Jersey.

"Students often associate climate change at a global scale but do not realize the impact that it will have in New Jersey if humans continue to ignore the issue," said Ms. Peña. "Participating in this conference meant showing formal and informal educators how the climate change issue can be explained to middle school students in a way that makes it more meaningful by connecting it to their personal lives."

Throughout ANJEE’s 36th annual winter conference, educators and specialists responded to the revised New Jersey Student Learning Standards, which recognize the urgency in educating pupils about climate science and climate change.

Ms. Peña's talk was all about keeping things close to home. "My session focused on how I expose current climate change issue to my students on a local scale," she said. "My students' investigation concentrated on how hurricanes, such as Hurricane Sandy, are predicted to become more common in New Jersey due to the rising average sea surface temperatures. They looked at data, drew models, and used evidence from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Historical Hurricane Tracks. Through this data, they learned about hurricane formation and their pathways. They then composed responses explaining why New Jersey is predicted to have stronger storms in the future."

Other conference panelists included Greg Pope Professor, Earth and Environmental Studies at Montclair University; Dave Robinson, Professor and New Jersey State Climatologist at Rutgers University; and Missy Holzer, Science Standards Specialist for Great Minds, PBC and CLEAN Ambassador.

For additional resources, Ms. Peña suggests visiting the Explore National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website to learn about hurricane formation, speed, path, and patterns.

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