Senator Rafferty, Representative Brennan, distinguished members of the Committe on Education and Cultural Affairs. My name is Josh Caldwell. I am the Climate and Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), and I am testifying today in support of LD 1902: A Resolve, To Establish a Pilot Program To Encourage Climate Education in Maine Public Schools.
Climate change is a pressing issue for Maine, our nation, and the world, and it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Youth today are growing up during an era defined by climate change, and it is important that we equip them with the educational tools and knowledge needed to live, work, and thrive in such a setting. Maine has mobilized against climate change through the state’s Climate Action Plan and associated legislation, and that work should be reflected in our state’s educational system.
Maine’s Climate Action Plan
The “Maine Won’t Wait” Climate Action Plan, crafted through a bipartisan process in 2020, makes clear that climate education is an essential element of achieving Maine’s climate goals. The second objective listed under Strategy H (Engage with Maine People and Communities About Climate Impacts and Program Opportunities) in the Climate Action Plan is to “Increase Public Education Opportunities Around Climate and Energy.” The state’s climate goals extend decades into the future and building a climate education pipeline will be critical to maintaining progress and creating a climate safe future for generations to come.
Not only will climate change represent a pressing issue for current and future students, but it will also shape the occupational and economic landscape of our state. Climate and clean energy jobs are growing quickly, and we must have in place an educational system that supports those pursuits. Climate education is a strong foundation for youth to choose a career related to Maine’s natural resources, and LD 1902 is the only bill currently being considered that would advance the components of “Maine Won’t Wait” that hinge on climate and clean energy education.
Professional Support for Teachers
Now more than ever, teachers need additional support to provide quality education to the youth of Maine. In the 2019 Statewide Census of Community-based Environmental Learning, educators identified climate change education as their highest priority for professional development support. Further, the climate education standards outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards adopted in 2019 present an obstacle for teachers that do not have access to climate education training and resources. LD 1902 would remedy this shortcoming and improve training for teachers around the state.
LD 1902 would also open Maine schools up to partnerships with experienced community organizations that would provide additional expertise and support for teachers. Community engagement is proven to help students retain and engage with subject matter, and these new partnerships will strengthen youth connection to their communities and provide hands on learning experiences.
Equitable Access to Funding Opportunities
As climate change becomes a more primary focus for our federal government and educational organizations, funding opportunities for climate education pursuits are rapidly growing. Maine can only take advantage of these new funding opportunities if they have the resources and capacity to channel funds effectively. A pilot program such as the one established by LD 1902 would enable Maine schools to take advantage of funding programs and direct funding where it is needed most.
For these reasons we urge the Committee to support the passage of this important climate education bill. Thank you for your consideration, and I welcome any questions that you may have.