Monday, February 23, 2015

February's Climate Camp day camp embraces wintery weather

Up to seven inches of snow fell Friday, the night before our Climate Camp day camp, thwarting numerous parents and participants. By Saturday morning, every inbox I had — email, Facebook, phone — was full of queries: Is camp canceled?

Two campers try out their fire-by-friction skills.
The answer was easy for me: No. 

I live easy walking distance from White Pine Wilderness Academy, the site of this day camp. For others, attendance would depend upon numerous factors, including the condition of the interstates.

I let each parent decide for themselves, of course, but I was clear on climate camp moving forward. Given the scientific certainty that our fossil fuel emissions are creating a more chaotic weather system, a little snow or a polar vortex can't stand in our way.

Before we go on, let me say that Climate Camp is a collaboration between Earth Charter Indiana's youth program, Youth Power Indiana, and the Peace Learning Center, along with fantastic partners like White Pine, Indy Urban Acres and others. 

You can read about Climate Camp here. And you can watch a great video about it here. Once you see that video you can explore our Youth Power Indiana site blog section to read student testimonials. 

In fact I already knew my main partner, Kristina Hulvershorn from the Peace Learning Center, was going to be unable to join as her neighborhood was snowed in with no promise of plowing. Kristina was slated to bring a major component to the camp — a interactive 3D art workshop — so I was concerned a bit about keeping to the day's schedule. 

At noon I arrived at White Pine and before long, car after car began to arrive, dropping off kids. One family drove all the way from Columbus, Indiana. Some adult volunteers arrived, plus some high school interns with whom I work, along with a couple Butler University students. The numbers swelled to nearly 30 or more!

Playing outside became the main focus as the afternoon progressed.
The first set of workshops unfolded as planned, including a presentation by Molly Denning, a Pike High School student artist whose work involves using repurposed materials to create 3D sculptures of endangered animals. I write about Molly's work here

We held a workshop on creating monarch butterfly costumes out of polystyrene trays (see below for photos).

Our theater workshop was productive, and I gave a Climate Change 101 workshop as well. And two of our Climate Campers, Maddie and Cora, read the testimonials they made to the Environmental Rules Board in November — about our project to get a Climate Action Plan for Indiana.

(Read these testimonials in the blog section of our site; here's one from a Climate Camper who couldn't be with us, Jackson Leonard, because he is infantry school in California as part of his training for the United States Marine Corps.)

The snow ceased to fall, the sun came out, and we took a break mid afternoon to be outside. Soon, however, it became clear that the campers didn't want to come back inside for further workshops. So we stayed outside and played, eventually engaging in primitive skills activities, which is one focus of White Pine Wilderness Academy's curriculum.

I went into the Academy's main structure in the mid to late afternoon: no campers were inside. Bits and pieces of polystyrene were littered on the floor. I went into the yurt. There were four or five kids surrounding the wood stove, warming up. Everyone else was outdoors! 

I queried the kids as the afternoon waned, specifically asking them what they enjoyed most about today's camp. Over and over they said the same things: The enjoyed being together and they enjoyed the snowball fights. 

These boys are clearly seasoned veterans when it comes to playing in the snow!
I think they also got a healthy dose of education about our climate crisis, but I have to say I was moved by their responses. It reminded me we have to pair the enormous work that needs to be done about climate change with friendship and fun.

Enjoy the photos, below, and consider getting involved in our day camps by contacting me at Or you can sign up for our weeklong camp, July 20-24, here. Officially, we work with youths from 4th thru 12th grade, but in our day camps, we can go younger than 4th grade.

One of our indoor activities involves rolling an inflated earth while in a circle to share concerns about the planet and ideas about healing our relationship to it.
It was Hannah's 9th birthday! She decided to spend it at Climate Camp and did a great job creating monarch butterfly wings for our Save the Monarchs project with the Arts Council of Indianapolis. We will exhibit monarch butterfly creations at the Artsgarden throughout the month of April

At Earth Day Indiana, kids will construct monarch butterfly wings out of repurposed materials to raise awareness about the plight of monarch butterflies. In addition to the Arts Council and Earth Day Indiana, our partners on the Save the Monarchs project include Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Brick Street Poetry, Indiana Recycling Coalition and Nopal Cultural Center.

Hannah took time out to talk about her monarch costume with our videographer, Ryan.

More fire-by-friction!

Matt Shull, center-left, prepares Climate Campers for the lighting of the campfire.

Rohan traveled all the way from Columbus. 

Nourishing the tinder bundle.

Everyone participates in Climate Camp activities, creating a sense of wonder for all.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Save the Monarchs: Inspired by youth

It all started with a high school student artist, Molly Denning. We met one day last fall to discuss a potential internship, but as often happens in these situations, she declined the internship. High school kids are busy — really busy. Heck, middle school and elementary school kids are busy, too!

Molly was too busy to intern with Earth Charter Indiana, but she isn't too busy to create beautiful sculptures from repurposed materials. I invited her to send me images of her work (see more below), and the first photo she shared with me was monarch butterflies created from pages of discarded National Geographic magazines.

Work by Molly Denning.
This was the spark. Eying this lovely piece, and reflecting on the precipitous decline in the monarch population (1 billion in the 90s; less than 100 million now), I realized that students all over Indiana could be creating 3D monarch butterflies — made from repurposed materials.

I went to Shannon Linker at the Arts Council of Indianapolis with this idea and before long, we were off and running with our Call for Entries for 4th and 5th grade students. Numerous partners have come on board; and I have a feeling more will arrive before our April exhibit at the Artsgarden.

The beauty of this idea, I want to emphasize, is that it came from a young person — Molly — who is motivated by her concerns about climate change and other erosive human impacts on the planet.

She's interviewed here in this Fort Wayne publication.

Visiting Valley Mills Elementary school in late January to talk about this project, I found the 4th graders to be more knowledgeable about monarchs than me. How can this be? Well, students at this Project-Based Learning school routinely study monarch butterflies in second grade. So of course they know a good deal about monarchs, and the relatively easy solution of growing milkweed to create habitat.

One fourth grader suggested that we could think of these habitats as "pitstops" for the butterflies.

I love that idea, especially in a state where racing is such a popular sport.

We won't, however, just be racing for the cure to this problem (so to speak), we'll also be exploring the causes of monarch decline, from human overdevelopment to GMOs to climate change.

Already, I've had numerous confirmations from art teachers all over the state, from Bloomington and Columbus all the way up to Michigan City.

This exhibit and concomitant public events, still TBD, have gathered many partners, as I said, and I am reminded the beauty of living in Indianapolis, that so many people want to collaborate, especially when it comes to serving our youth.

I am also reminded of the brilliance of youth, of Molly and of the Valley Mills 4th grader — who knows what her "pitstop" metaphor might do for our Save the Monarchs project?

Here's more work by Molly.

Not all species of jellyfish will flourish in a climate changed future. This species, known as Peach Blossom, is endangered.

Hopefully, before Molly goes off to college, she'll be able to show off her work in an Indianapolis gallery.

While at Valley Mills, I learned the students are also concerned about endangered animals. There's an entire hallway filled with their 2D art about these embattled creatures. I'll leave you with a couple of their pieces: