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Money from the regional utility helps Portland schools teach about climate crisis and ways to reduce students' impact.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Fifth grade students at Bridger K-8 School in Portland share what they're doing to reduce waste and help the climate during a classroom visit from PGE representatives and school district officials. PGE will donate $250,000 to the district to use toward developing climate curriculum. Portland General Electric will donate $250,000 to Portland Public Schools to develop climate curriculum.

The donation was announced Thursday morning, Jan. 30, at Bridger K-8 School in Southeast Portland.

As fifth graders took part in a science activity to study water filtration and turbidity, district board members and administrators watched from the sidelines. Then came the big announcement.

"In response to your overwhelming requests and input to have curriculum around climate change, we're here to announce a first in the nation ... partnership around open source K-through-12 climate change curriculum," Maria Pope, PGE president and chief executive officer, told students.

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - PGE and Portland Public Schools officials annouced Thursday, Jan. 30 that PGE will donate $250,000 to the school district. Pictured left to right: Victoria Lara, Chair of the Fund for Portland Public Schools, Maria Pope, President and CEO of PGE, and Guadalupe Guerrero, superintendent of PPS.The utility company's donation will help PPS develop and implement climate curriculum at the high school level, said Nichole Berg, the district's new programs manager for climate change and climate justice.

The district is creating curriculum — in keeping with a 2016 resolution the school board adopted — to create and teach curriculum that accurately addresses the climate crisis and its root causes.

"Our school board passed a resolution that was very inspired by student leaders and advocates that called upon Portland Public Schools to develop and implement lessons that related to climate change," PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said. "If we're going to be a first in the nation school district that has kindergarten through 12th grade lessons for all of our students and all of our schools, that takes a lot of work to develop and train our teachers and to have the kinds of quality materials to really study these topics in a deep way."

Guerrero said the district's efforts will help create well-rounded, informed students, who can be "critical thinkers and change agents," as well as "global stewards."

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Whitney Welsh of PGE aids fifth grade students at Bridger K8 School in a water filtration experiment. PGE will donate $250,000 to Portland Public Schools to help develop climate curriculum.Thursday's classroom visit showed that many students are well on their way to doing just that. Students stood in pairs to share what they're doing to reduce waste and their impact on the environment. Some pledged to pack zero-waste lunches without plastic wrap or single-use plastics, encouraging others to do the same. Others said Bridger students are teaming up to create a 3-by-5-foot salmon display from discarded plastic and other waste found on campus.

Students also are selling reusable wraps made of beeswax that can replace plastic wrap via a school website.

How will PGE's donation be used?

PGE's donation will go to the Fund for Portland Public Schools to help pay for staff and materials for high school-level curriculum, Berg said.

She said the district will begin a design institute this summer to craft climate curriculum for each high school. Teams of students and teachers will provide input.

"The design teams for each school will design their own version of the elective," Berg said. "It will all be standards-based, but what it looks like in each space will be up to the design teams."

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