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In Celebration of Teachers, Farmers, and Hawks: Climate Change Consensus and a Nod to Local Experts

Recently, a minority of climate change skeptics in the Kutztown Area School District have begun lashing out at teachers and staff for choosing the Alan Gratz middle grade novel Two Degrees (which features stories of teens experiencing climate disasters in different parts of the country). This book was chosen by well-regarded, credentialed and caring reading and curriculum specialists, and is being used by our beloved middle school team as part of the “One School, One Book” grant-funded program, which saves taxpayer dollars. This book is not controversial in the real world, and is written specifically for middle grade readers. As a needed reminder, if a student or family has an objection to reading Two Degrees (a novel approved for 5th grade and above by one of the most restrictive school districts in Florida), they can base that objection on religious or philosophical beliefs and opt out. KASD has always allowed students and families to opt out of material without issue. Our teachers are trained experts, and they have worked hard on this initiative. They care deeply about engaging and uplifting our students. They have chosen this novel for multifaceted reasons, including taking advantage of our exceptional local resources. These include Kutztown University’s 25th Annual Children’s Literature Conference, where students will get to hear the author speak in person. (This is the type of opportunity that really inspires kids AND educators.) Our communities are also home to several expert organizations that research climate change, from raptor conservation to regenerative farming practices, just to name a few. As a community we have always appreciated and supported farmers and farming. Farmers are educated on climate issues, and many have climate concerns. To assume otherwise is a disservice to farmers’ lived experiences, and to the agricultural expertise across our district, county and state. PA Future Farmers of America Association executive director Michael Brammer oversees FFA chapters in 148 high schools across Pennsylvania, and also coordinates FFA programming with the help of PA FFA state officers, who are all recent high school graduates. Brammer acknowledges climate change as an issue, and points out that college agricultural programs see climate change as important to study. He explains: “Agroecology is the application of ecological concepts in farming that help mitigate climate change, reduce carbon emissions, increase recycling and prioritize local supply chains. FFA students here in Pennsylvania are all part of that growth.” In our own backyard, Rodale Institute is a global leader in organic agriculture, and has been conducting pioneering research since 1947. Rodale Institute highlights climate change as a “priority issue in farming.” Their climate change information showcases their 40 year study comparing the effects of conventional vs. organic agriculture - their innovative “Farming Systems Trial." The venerated Penn State Extension delivers science-based information about Agronomy, Animal Systems, Food Safety, Home Gardening and more. Berks County is lucky enough to host one of Penn State Extension’s 67 county offices, but you can find innumerable articles and classes online. Their 283 articles, webinars and workshops regarding climate change include topics such as Climate Change and Orchards, Climate Change Implications for Grape Vine Production, Climate Change Effects on Pennsylvania’s Forests, and Climate Change and Water Management in Eastern States. We can also give a shout out to Kempton’s amazing Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, whose renowned wildlife biologists recently published a groundbreaking study in the journal Science using their team’s long-term research demonstrating the implications of climate change on arctic raptors. In addition to the expertise and hard work of our educators, we can proudly point to the expertise of the PA FFA, the Rodale Institute, the Penn State Extension and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary as local resources that can extend the “One School, One Book” study of Two Degrees. Let us uplift and benefit from the expertise that surrounds us, not deny it. Sources: ‘Sparking’ Support for FFA: Meet the Pennsylvania FFA Foundation's First Full-Time Executive Director https://www.lancasterfarming.com/country-life/youth/sparking-support-for-ffa-meet-the-pennsylvania-ffa-foundations-first-full-time-executive-director/article_e62738ca-1c99-11ec-acdc-276a34afdc9d.html FFA Ag Careers Newsletter Spotlight: Career as Climate Change Analyst https://agexplorer.ffa.org/career/climate-change-analyst Rodale Institute: Issues and Priorities: Climate Change https://rodaleinstitute.org/why-organic/issues-and-priorities/climate-change/ Penn State Extension’s 283 resources on Climate Change: https://extension.psu.edu/catalogsearch/result/?q=climate+change Penn State Institute on Energy and the Environment: Climate and ecosystem change: https://iee.psu.edu/research/climate-and-ecosystem-change “Hawk Mountain research on arctic raptors and the effects of climate change published in prestigious journal” https://www.hawkmountain.org/news/science/hawk-mountain-research-on-arctic-raptors-and-the-effects-of-climate-change-published-in-prestigious-journal One School, One Book https://readtothem.org/one-school-one-book/ 25th Annual Children’s Literature Conference at Kutztown University http://kuchildrensliterature.weebly.com

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