A Day of Climate Action

By Midge Pierce

Greta Thunberg should take heart. The planet’s children have issued a spectacular message that climate is a ticking timebomb.

As schools emptied across the globe on September 20 for a Day of Climate Action, a multi-generational, multicultural Portland crowd estimated at more than 10,000 crossed the Hawthorne Bridge to OMSI holding signs like There is No Plan-et B; Science, Not Silence; Act Like Your House is on Fire; and  Why Send us to School If We Have No Future?

The clever signage, massive show of activism and informational presentations about living in harmony with nature were the kind of education experience advocated by curriculum specialist Bill Bigelow.

A member of Portland Public Schools Climate Justice Committee, the former Franklin High teacher was nationally recognized recently in a Teen Vogue article in which he championed weeding out textbooks that fail to acknowledge human-caused elements in the crisis.

Bigelow claims that an evaluation of thirteen middle and high school science and social studies books showed that every one of them misleads young people.

“We can’t look to multi-national companies to publish texts that provide accurate information about climate.”

Bigelow and SE Portland teacher Tim Swinehart are co-authors of A People’s Curriculum for the Earth. In a blog for the education reform nonprofit Rethinking Schools, they write of a school-based Green New Deal that engages students in science, inviting them to envision a society based on ecology and social equity.

As part of his work, Bigelow is fashioning curriculum to not only address climate change, but that of climate justice. He says the poorest people are often hit “first and worst” by global warming.

Bigelow was instrumental in the passage of a 2016 PPS resolution to develop tools and lesson plans as alternatives to what he calls “awful textbooks.”

The resolution is considered the most comprehensive climate justice curriculum in the nation. In May, PPS designated funds for a full-time climate justice position.

Asked if he is optimistic about the planet’s future, he says, “I’m a grandfather. It’s my job to be hopeful.”

Back at the rally, a middle-grader added a student spin (that brought this reporter to tears): “The planet is still beautiful and worth saving for my future.”

A Day of Climate Action

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