Letter: Youth Climate Summit

The first preK to grade 12 Youth Climate Summit at The Garrison School was held on May 12 and included students from seven other middle and high schools in New York and Connecticut.

The keynote presentation was led by 10 fourth to eighth graders from Garrison who spoke on their research-driven climate stories. For the rest of the day, Garrison students in grades preK to eight became peer teachers, spreading environmental awareness, knowledge and stewardship by sharing long-term research projects related to sustainability.

The website for this year’s event showcases the curated workshops, each led by experts in the field, that illuminated the variety of careers in which sustainability plays a role.

The website also has a long list of our partners. The evening event was open to the public and had an audience of more than 350 students, families and community members. It was filled to the brim with presentations from students, including the eight-grade presentations of their Civic Capstone projects. The night also featured new workshops, activities in the newly unveiled, student-driven Pollinator Garden, live animals, food trucks and eco-vendors.

Student presentations and workshops were shaped to reflect the spectrum of human-induced climate change:

Second and fifth-grade students are continuing a long-term citizen science project, measuring carbon sequestration in the trees of the school forest. The second graders are teaching their peers about this data collection process, why it matters and how it relates to climate change, and how identifying tree species helps us determine how effective each is at fighting climate change.

Third and fifth-grade students built a pollinator garden on school grounds in April. They researched pollinators, their migratory pathway, why they migrate, why they’re endangered, and how our garden helps endangered Monarchs thrive despite habitat fragmentation.

Fourth-graders researched the 65 unique species featured in the 2023 March Mammal Madness competition. They explored how these species are affected by extreme weather and climate change and will present on their findings at the Summit.

Eighth graders shared their Civic Capstone projects (built in response to the UN Sustainable Development Goals) centered on endangered species, such as the Hellbender Salamander and California Condor. The students are partnering with local conservation organizations to promote protective initiatives and educate the public.

Fifth-grade students have been engineering renewable energy solutions while representing real-world countries. Each country has a unique resource list and budget, based on its real-world access to resources and GDP. Regardless of the starting point, each country’s goal is to build a functional water wheel to simulate the country’s ability to generate hydropower.

Seventh-grade students engineered solutions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals through the lens of biomimicry. One group focused on the pollution created from used Christmas tree disposal. Their goal is to orchestrate a tree collection after the holidays, harvest chlorophyll from the pine needles, and synthesize it into edible paper for people to use for health benefits. They’ll affix the edible paper onto their water bottle, which they designed in response to the way clams filter water.

The remaining material from the trees will be turned into firewood, thereby minimizing waste and promoting human health. Another group built a self-contained installation using living moss they grew themselves to purify the air and sequester carbon.

The day also featured workshops, including one that showcased a range of vehicles, from regular gas cars to hybrids and electric and everything in between. These sessions were equal parts hands-on with real cars and engineering design.

Others focused on how the effects of climate change are experienced based on the ecosystem in which you live and the resources you have at your disposal. Students explored unique perspectives, wrote climate poetry, and listened to climate stories from workshops leaders with lived climate-related experiences around the globe.

Rachel Arbor, Garrison

Arbor is the coordinator of environmental education and a science teacher at the Garrison School.

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