SFUSD Teaches Environmental Literacy and Climate Justice to All K-12 Students

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SFUSD Teaches Environmental Literacy and Climate Justice to All K-12 Students

Press Release

San Francisco (April 15, 2022) - The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is highlighting its efforts to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis during Earth Week from April 18 - April 22. Throughout the school year SFUSD’s curriculum offers multiple opportunities for K-12 students to engage in developmentally appropriate environmental and climate literacy through a social justice lens.

SFUSD’s curriculum is in alignment with the CA Department of Education’s Blueprint for Environmental Literacy, which shares the goal of educating all K-12 SFUSD students with environmental literacy.

“Science education in SFUSD means bringing real-world experiences into the classroom and being part of the world outside the classroom so students understand how science impacts their everyday lives,” SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “We recognize the urgency of preparing our students to be environmental stewards and to be ready to tackle a changing world.”

Elementary Environmental Science

The SFUSD Science Department operates an in-house field studies program for elementary students through the Environmental Science Center. Over 1,500 third, fourth and fifth graders engage in free hands-on field studies in McLaren Park, Golden Gate Park and at Fort Funston, which is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. 

Additionally, the K-5 science curriculum develops students' understanding of the natural systems and cycles of our planet and our dependence on them. Lessons from Amplify Science incorporate the Environmental Principles and Concepts and provide students with projects such as the 5th grade Ecosystem Restoration where students role play as water engineers to learn about water scarcity. With simulation and modeling tools, students engage with the intricacies in the Earth’s water distribution system and then learn wastewater treatment. For K-5 teachers, the Science Department provides a year-long, monthly professional learning series titled Scientific Literacy through Climate Justice to support teachers to incorporate stronger connections between student learning and the students’ local environments. 

Secondary Environmental Science

Middle schoolers in SFUSD create a plan for citywide action with a variety of sustainability-based policy recommendations to SFUSD’s Office of Sustainability and the San Francisco Department of the Environment, as part of a sixth grade unit. Students learn about human impact on the increasing global temperature and learn about carbon dioxide emission with fuel burning and the greenhouse effect. In addition, they investigate the effect of sea level rise and consider its potential impact on San Francisco.

High School Chemistry launched a localized, open-source curriculum last spring: Chemistry through Climate Change. Students apply their Chemistry knowledge of global climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and renewable energy to real-world, solutionary design challenges that push students to communicate the urgency of the problem and the multitude of solutions to their communities through culturally responsive media. The projects that cap each unit will soon be available as a stand-alone Deeper Learning Guide for high school teachers of all disciplines to support their work in climate justice. High School Biology incorporates exploration of how wildfires affect both ecosystems and human communities, while High School Physics asks students to analyze energy usage in their schools and homes.

Districtwide Initiatives

The Climate Justice Solutionary Fellowship – in partnership with the San Mateo County Office of Education – provides 28 K-12 SFUSD teachers a year-long paid opportunity including professional learning, coaching and celebration of their students taking action.

SFUSD hosts a Climate Justice & YOU series every third Thursday for all SFUSD staff with local environmental justice organizations, curriculum partners and culminating in May to honor the student work blooming throughout the district. 

San Francisco continues to invest in green schoolyards and innovation in outdoor learning spaces.

The science work within SFUSD is amplified by deep relationships with dozens of community-based partners and city agencies, including the National Park Service, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco Environment, and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. 

If members of the media are interested in covering one of these items, please email the SFUSD Communications Office at newsline@sfusd.edu.


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