Monday, February 29, 2016

First ever Youth Environmental Civics Summit

Sunday, Feb. 28, marked a milestone. As far as I know, this was the first ever Youth Environmental Civics Summit (YECS). We at Earth Charter Indiana and Youth Power Indiana were fortunate to team up with Sidener Academy and The Orchard School for this convergence event of service, waste reduction and climate recovery. We estimated around 120 people participated, about 2/3rds of them youth from second grade on up into high school.

An invasive species called Wintercreeper has motivated Orchard third graders to research not only destructive aspects of this vine, but also the potential solutions. Their solution is to write a rule for the DNR that will in fact remove Wintercreeper from consumer option, saving everyone a headache, and the environment a biodiversity nightmare. The third graders, led by their teacher (and YECS co-organizer) Nate Mylin, are well versed not only in the science but also the civics of approaching the DNR on this vital issues. DNR has come to their school to aid in the science instruction as well as alert the third graders to the process necessary to make change on a legal level.

The second main civics project is by 5th graders at Sidener Academy for High Ability Students. These students are alarmed by waste in their school (paper, plastic, etc.), and have chosen polystyrene lunch trays as their area of research. With the help of an IPS official, Kristi Hardin, they've learned quite a lot about how IPS transitioned from plastic trays to polystyrene, and how difficult it will be to transition away from polystyrene to something more sustainable. They are still in the exploratory research stages, so we can't determine what they will come up with but they have created a project title: #JustTrayNo, that has its own social media campaign. You can contact the 5th graders and their adult sponsors via email, or via twitter.

The third project presented on Sunday is an Earth Charter Indiana initiative, as part of its Youth Power Indiana program, to create a youth-led effort to work with elected officials to create a climate recovery policy for the city of Indianapolis. In fact, the Climate Recovery team was represented by youth from Indy and from Carmel, and they too took stage at the Orchard auditorium to update the assembled audience members and civic-engaged students. Carmel is also engaged in a city-based climate recovery program.

Students from the following schools were in attendance at the Youth Environmental Civics Summit: Decatur Township School of Excellence, Harshman Middle School, The Orchard School, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, North Central High School, Herron High School, Creekside Middle School, Butler Lab School, School for Community Learning, Warren Central High School, Shortridge High School, Sidener Academy, Fox Hill Elementary, Eastwood Middle School, Allisonville Elementary, Center for Inquiry School 84, and the International School of Indiana.

Before I share some photos with you, let me say thank you to Orchard for hosting us and for Sidener parents like Laura Dodds (another co-organizer), who helped organize the event. If you'd like to learn more about this, or if you have civic-oriented projects with youth going on, please email me.

We started off the day with 90 minutes of service on the grounds of The Orchard School, literally pulling up mounds and mounds of Wintercreeper!

Cora (left) from North Central High School, Maddie (bending over to pull Wintercreeper) from Herron High School, and Marly (right) from Brebeuf were all part of the Climate Recovery project, and working hard to get rid of the invasive species. Late in the afternoon, we moved indoors for presentations on Wintercreeper, JustTrayNo and Climate Recovery:

These kids were not only celebrating their good work — and the work of their fellow students — they were excited about the final section of our agenda: pizza!


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