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New Jersey, Meet the Standards: Enhancing Climate Change Education Through Virtual Exchanges

Global Citizen Series
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    Things are heating up—and I don’t just mean that as hype for the start of a new school year; no, the planet is actually—literally—heating up… And, in a world grappling with the challenges of climate change, education plays a vital role in shaping future generations’ understanding and response to this global crisis. Recently, the New Jersey State Board of Education took a significant step by requiring the inclusion of climate change as a necessary topic in education. This mandate, or as many may view it, this unique opportunity, will allow educators to engage students in meaningful discussions about the environment. Of course, you know what direction this blog post is taking: one innovative way to achieve this is through—you guessed it!—virtual exchanges in World Languages classrooms.

    Virtual exchanges offer a dynamic platform for students to connect with peers from around the world and share ideas, perspectives, and experiences. By leveraging technology, educators can harness the power of virtual exchanges to enhance climate change education and while simultaneously promoting cross-cultural understanding. Let’s have a look at the specific standards that have been modified to include climate change and discuss how educators can meet these objectives sequentially through Level Up Village’s telecollaboration courses.

    The New Standards

    The New Jersey Student Learning Standards–World Languages (NJSLS-WL) break down into several categories. And although you could spend your time reading through all of them, we’re going to be focusing on the three language learning standards that mention climate: interpretive, presentational, and interpersonal. Then, based on level of instruction and language proficiency, each of these standards gets a category (new, intermediate, and advanced) and a level (low, medium, or high); this should demystify that acronym preceding each standard. As you’ll note, each standard builds upon its previous iteration to reach an exemplary communicative goal. Let’s start with the interpretive goals: 


    7.1.NL.IPRET.4: Recognize a few memorized words related to weather and climate in the target culture(s) and in students’ own cultures in highly contextualized oral texts.

    7.1.NM.IPRET.5: Demonstrate comprehension of brief oral and written messages found in short culturally authentic materials on global issues, including climate change.

    7.1.NH.IPRET.8: Demonstrate comprehension of brief oral and written messages using contextualized culturally authentic materials on global issues, including climate change. 

    7.1.IL.IPRET.6: Using contextual authentic cultural resources, identify reasons for climate change in the target culture and in students’ own community.

    7.1.IM.IPRET.9: Use information gathered from culturally authentic resources to identify possible solutions to the effects of climate change.

    7.1.IH.IPRET.8: Collect, share, and analyze data related to global issues including climate change.

    7.1.AL.IPRET.10: Collect, share, and analyze data related to global issues including climate change.

    What we have here, if you’re noticing a trend, is a roadmap to building the pre-lesson prep work for your virtual exchange. It’s precisely the coursework that you can do in anticipation of sharing with others, building confidence and proficiency amongst your students on the topic upon which they need to present. From understanding the material, at whatever level their proficiency permits, we can then move on to the very next step in their journey, presenting their knowledge. Let’s have a look at what the climate change-related presentational standards look like:


    7.1.NL.PRSNT.4: State the names of a few memorized and practiced words and phrases related to climate change in the target culture(s) and in students’ own cultures.

    7.1.NM.PRSNT.6: Name and label tangible cultural products associated with climate change in the target language regions of the world.

    7.1.NH.PRSNT.6: Tell or write a few details about the impact of climate change in the target language regions of the world and compare those impacts with climate change in the student’s community and/or different regions in the United States. 

    7.1.IM.PRSNT.7: Compare cultural perspectives regarding the degradation of the environment of the target culture(s), including the effects of climate change, with those of students’ own culture.

    7.1.IH.PRSNT.6: Explain cultural perspectives of the target language people regarding climate change and compare and contrast those perspectives with ones held by people in the students’ own culture.

    7.1.AL.PRSNT.6: Analyze how cultural perspectives about climate change over time, and compare with changing perspectives in one’s own culture.

    As you can see, similarly to the interpretive standards, these goals also develop iteratively and build off one another. Presentation follows interpretation in a logical fashion, just like we learn to speak only after we begin understanding speech. This actually gives them a framework for how to approach a virtual exchange in which they will discuss climate change: they must first familiarize themselves with the relevant vocabulary and cultural-specific issues, and subsequently deliver some coherent thoughts about the subject. When they’ve sufficiently achieved the appropriate level of each goal, that’s when the virtual exchange can yield the most beneficial results—the interpersonal ones! In fact, just look at those goals:


    7.1.NL.IPERS.6: Share with others the names of a few memorized and practiced words and phrases related to climate change in the target culture(s) and in students’ own cultures.  

    7.1.NM.IPERS.6: Exchange brief messages with others about climate in the target regions of the world and in one’s own region using memorized and practiced words, phrases, and simple, formulaic sentences.

    7.1.NH.IPERS.6: Using information from brief oral and written messages on global issues, exchange information with classmates and others about global issues, including climate change.

    7.1.IL.IPERS.6: Exchange information with classmates and with native speakers of the target language about the effects of climate change on the target language region(s) of the world and suggest a few possible solutions.

    7.1.IM.IPERS.6: Exchange information from a variety of resources with classmates about global issues, including climate change.

    7.1.IH.IPERS.6: Compare and contrast global issues in a group discussion, with emphasis on climate change and its impact on the target language regions of the world and the people who live in those areas.

    7.1.AL.IPERS.6: Converse with members of the target culture with understanding about contemporary global issues, including climate change.

    Here we reach the crux of communication—a real and true setup for meaningful cultural exchange! And the roadmap is laid out quite ingenious for it—just notice the natural progression in the verbiage of some of the goals:

    • The novice learner must recognize, state, and then share.
    • The intermediate student demonstrates comprehension, explains, and then finally exchanges.
    • And at the advanced level, the student collects, analyzes, and converses.

    It’s all right there in front of you! The standards spell out success—it’s necessary for you to prepare your students for these conversations, first with the classroom material that, no doubt at this point, already addresses some aspect of the environment through basic vocabulary or critical thinking on major issues. From there, the students will naturally want to practice this new vocabulary, and kick around the new concepts in a safe place—amongst each other, or with you primarily. For some of these kids, it may be the first time they have gotten a chance to learn about and discuss these topics, let alone using a second language!

    And of course, the interpersonal standards present the educational paragon of what you’re trying to accomplish by setting up your classroom virtual exchange in the first place! The raison d’etre of this telecollaborative approach! I mean, for the top goal to read, “Converse with members of the target culture with understanding about contemporary global issues.” Really? That’s the whole point, is it not? Kudos for New Jersey in succinctly articulating what we as educators desire of our students and of the process of international exchange in the first place!


    The New Jersey State Board of Education’s requirement to include climate change education offers an exciting opportunity for educators to foster global citizenship and environmental awareness. By incorporating virtual exchanges into World Languages classrooms, teachers can transcend traditional boundaries, connect students across cultures, and empower them to tackle the challenges of climate change collectively. As students engage in meaningful dialogues with peers from around the world, they’ll not only strengthen their language skills but also become informed, empathetic, and active participants in the fight against climate change. And no reason to get hung up on how you’re going to meet the standards; the standards make up a roadmap to your success!

    If you approach the standards as benchmarks, then you’re going to want to hit them in the right order, and voila—you’ve prepped for and executed your virtual exchange in the best manner possible! The goals star with interpretive standards, which allows you to introduce topics like climate change at whatever dosage and profundity your students can handle and familiarize them with the lingo and hot button topics. Then, they’re going to need to speak or elaborate on these subjects, which is outlined by the presentational goals. Here is where the students can really dig into what they’ve learned, utilize the new lexicon, expressions, and vocabulary to cogently expand upon their learning, and even talk about issues pertaining to their community. And finally, they’re ready to get matched up and start real, meaningful conversations with peers all around the world. Primed and ready for connection, they’ll be ready to go for a serious and productive dialogue about one of the hottest topics that we’re tackling!