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The Backstory...

In 2007, I had the enormous good fortune of seeing Dr. Wangari Maathai speak in New York City. Upon my return to school the next day, I visited my friend Patty's office and told her about the Green Belt Movement and the amazing work Dr. Maathai was doing throughout the world. I sat across from Patty and said, "Do you think we could do a project in support of her work?"

Patty looked at me and I could tell that her brain was already spinning with ideas of what we could do. She squinted a bit, then said, "Yes. We can."

Over the course of the following school year, Patty pulled together all of the 9th grade teachers to weave trees and environmental sustainability throughout their lessons. She worked with the kids to coordinate our efforts with the town, the Department of Public Works, and the school administration. We planted over 250 trees on the school campus and we raised funds to support environmental sustainability programs in South Asia. We called the initiative, "Think Globally, Plant Locally."

This past year, in my capacity as an interim Director of Curriculum & Instruction, I spent many hours unpacking the NJ State Standards that must be implemented by the fall of 2022. It didn't take long for me to see that the state was asking schools to do what we had pulled off over ten years ago. 

I called Patty and said, "Let's get the band back together."

Learn & Grow is our attempt to help teachers and administrators to integrate climate change and social justice throughout their curricula. 


Some background:


As a student at Morristown High in the 80s, it wasn't hard to see that the make-up of the classes did not mirror the diversity of the school. I became a teacher because I wanted to fix that. 

Twenty years in the classroom and nine years as an administrator has taught me that the structural inequity in the school system is endemic, entrenched and deeply destructive. I've seen and fought more unjust decisions and practices than I can count. 

Any discussion of climate change and environmental education must include an honest reckoning of environmental racism, economic exploitation, and social justice. 

Our task in this moment is to save the world, and to change it for the better in the process.

Also: my bio: Brown University BA'93 - Honors in Intellectual History; Columbia University MA'03 - Thesis focused on the socio-economic impact of New Jersey land use policies; Former Principal of Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School, Jersey City, NJ; current mentor to new teachers through CUNY-Brooklyn College's Teaching Fellows Program. 

Oh, and my name is Kate McCabe. :) You can reach me at

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