Climate Strike or Math Test?


Aerin Mann

“The future of our planet is far more important than any test I will take in High School,” said Noah Getz ’21.

On September 20th, 2019, many students walked out of Bronx Science to protest the blind eye that Congress turns to big, environmentally-unfriendly corporations. Working with the ‘Fridays for Future Coalition,’ Azalea Danes ’20 and other vocal students got the DOE to pass a citywide policy: On September 20th, if you were to attend the Climate Strike, your absence would be excused, with parental permission (an ‘Out of Building’ pass). As the DOE announced this news, teachers at Bronx Science were also making a much anticipated announcement: There will be a math test on 9/20.

“Should I attend the Climate Strike or stay at school to take my math test?” asked David Zhao ’20. Zhao’s question occupied the minds of Bronx Science students as the days leading up to the strike counted down. The limited time to make a decision ticked away quickly like the time left to determine if the answer to that calculus question is A or B.

That day, tens of thousands marched downtown to Foley Square. The Climate Strike dominated Instagram stories and Facebook pages with promotional videos and pictures of the protest. Teens were out protesting in sunny weather for the whole day. Some had climbed on traffic light poles, others pasted their handcrafted posters on high level windows. “I believe that we did achieve something great yesterday [Sept 20],” said Timothy Brett ’21. “We showed not only New York but the whole world that this problem is big enough that it would lead to students walking out for it.”

Mr. Garritano, who is known by his students for his love of collecting data, reported that as the day went on, fewer students showed up to class.

“I will definitely do something climate related this year in both of my classes at some point when it fits naturally into the curriculum,” said Mr. Garritano

While interviewing students who did not attend the strike, the most prevalent concern voiced was that non-strikers were worried that they would fall behind in schoolwork.

“I do believe that climate change is a real thing. However, I would not have attended the Climate Strike even if my math test was cancelled,” said Yasin Karim ’21, who is taking four AP’s and honors classes.

Instead of teaching regular classes with low attendance, Bronx Science should hold an environmentalism awareness school day, when teachers can engage with students on how climate change relates to their field of study. For instance, an AP Statistics teacher could provide research materials that staticians in the world have conducted to study climate change, and share suggestions made by students via e-mail.

“I will definitely do something climate related this year in both of my classes at some point when it fits naturally into the curriculum,” said Mr. Garritano, an AP Statistics and AP Calculus AB math teacher.

Yi Lan Zhang
Later periods had a higher percentage of walking out because many students strategized taking Mr. Garritano’s math test early in the day, then leaving for the strike.

“I think it would be best if we started the school day learning about it and then all went to strike together, including the staff who also believe [in climate change],” said Katherine Ly ’22. Besides students, school faculty also wanted to join the strike. “I love the proposal,” said Ms. Jaitin, an AP Creative Writing English teacher and an enthusiastic environmentalist.

Some Americans, according to ‘The New York Times,’ are enraged and worried that some students are using the Climate Strike as an excuse to cut school. Others are upset that the New York government tends to side with pro-environmental politics, implying that the DOE excused absence forces values onto the citizens.

Ayesha Khan ’20 disagrees and believes that fighting climate change should be free of political affiliation. “Combating climate change is wanting to live a healthy life and maintain that for future generations,” Khan said.

The DOE’s decision to excuse students for the Climate Strike is a step in providing an easier pathway for students to march and protest for the future.

Students should be able to say yes to both math tests, and climate strikes for education should complement youth empowerment.