Washington Teachers Connect Social Justice with Climate Education

On February 8, teachers from across the region gathered for the “Climate Justice League, Assemble!” workshop. Held at Vancouver’s Water Educational Resource Center, the workshop aimed to deepen participants’ understanding of climate justice.

Through self-reflection, small group brainstorming, and group discussion, participants explored how social injustices and environmental harms connect and affect the well-being of a community and broader regions. Participants worked individually and collaboratively to define climate justice education using illustrations and words, noting the perspectives and values each group’s illustration represented.

This allowed teachers to reflect on what they considered to be their identities and how those identities influenced how they showed up in the world, and taking it further, how removing those identities might make an individual look differently at science education.

One middle school teacher from Hockinson School District noted the number of real-world examples that address how local and global communities are impacted by the topics they explored.

“I’m also realizing how entwined colonialism is with education in general,” the teacher said, “and that it is equally important and difficult to identify, address, and remedy it.”

By engaging with experts, resources, data, and each other throughout the session, participants delved deeper into topics like social focus and critical consciousness, while always keeping the student voice of science learning in mind.

Teachers also used this time to workshop their classrooms’ climate justice learning units.

Another middle school teacher from Evergreen School District recognized that this experience was just the beginning, noting, “There is so much work to do! I have been making small steps to change my units but still have so much more to improve on. Today was very helpful and now I just need time to continue planning for future changes.”

This event was coordinated in a collaborative effort between ESD 112 and EarthGen, an organization that teaches young people the knowledge and skills needed to become leaders for climate solutions and environmental justice. It was funded by ClimeTime, a program that promotes climate education throughout Washington State.

Many participants were past members of the Climate Justice League, a professional learning experience that supports secondary teachers in designing and implementing science learning activities that highlight social justice and environmental learning connections. “Climate Justice League, Assemble!” provided these educators a chance to reconnect and continue their learning together, along with new members of the group. The Climate Justice League was first launched in southwest Washington by EarthGen and ESD 112 five years ago and has since expanded across the state.

Related Stories