Climate action in and around our schools
The Student Writers Advisory Group sought out stories on climate action and found them in their classrooms and communities.
Green Team unites the community in the fight against climate change
Over the past year, the Lake Oswego High School Green Team has helped its school embody environmentally friendly practices in the hopes that they'll inspire the rest of the community to follow suit.
A dedicated group of 30-40 students meets weekly to discuss ongoing projects and plan for upcoming events. But combine them with those on the Team's Google Classroom and the consistent attendance at their community events, and the total number reaches about 75.
LOHS teacher Breck Foster and parent Liz Welsh serve as advisors, and engineer Jerome Kruse actively supports the group with organizing facility use.
Junior Nate Foster plays a key role as leader of the Compost/Strike committee. According to him, the best part of being involved with Green Team is "the teamwork … So much takes place behind the scenes with different committees," as well as the opportunity to "coordinate with other organizations around the city and school to combat the climate crisis. There is no better feeling than seeing change and cooperation."
The group has certainly branched out to collaborate with other initiatives. They've worked with their school's Political Action Seminar class to expand the building's compost system.
In partnership with the Oswego Watershed Council, they've hosted three Ivy Pulls on the LOHS campus, where students gather to remove invasive ivy and other detrimental plants from the area. In total, they've saved 22 trees, removed 600 square feet of ivy and cleaned up over 60 pounds of trash.
On the other hand, they've also taken on unique responsibilities of their own. After most sporting events, you'll see students sporting gloves to collect bottles and cans left by spectators. Additionally, with the help of Kruse, they've installed two new water bottle-filling stations at LOHS to encourage the reduction of single-use plastic bottles.
Their influence on the community extends beyond the physical work. One of the group's advisors successfully submitted a request to LO Reads for the 2020 featured book to be Elizabeth Rush's "Rising: Dispatches from the North American Shore," a nonfiction account of how climate change has drastically changed lives across the nation. At the Jan. 14 LOSD school board meeting, students Annelise Foster, Nate Foster, Sophie Parks, Alana Penoyer, Izzy Rowland and Jake Watson emphasized the inclusion of sustainability measures on the district strategic plan.
Foster foresees their biggest challenge to be pushing for new city and school policy. He hopes that Green Team's student and adult volunteers will "unite [with] these very people, show them the threat of climate change at hand and urge them to act."
-Andrea Yang, Lake Oswego High School
Environmental action emerges at Wilsonville High School
Students at Wilsonville High School are more concerned with the wellbeing of the environment than perhaps ever before. A small group of students who are ready to take action towards bettering their environment have been getting together once a week during lunch to improve their school and volunteer within their communities.
The Environmental Action Club at Wilsonville High School is a group of students that meet once a week to work to integrate more sustainable practices into the school.
Recently, Environmental Action Club has been focusing on getting more students interested in sustainability and involved in club activities.
"We want to spread the message that there are lots of small things that people can incorporate into their lifestyles, or volunteer opportunities within their communities, that can really help to improve the environment — and we want to do this by getting more students involved in the club," Gabrielle Guertin, a club member, said.
In an effort to grow the group, the club hosted a movie event for newcomers who may be interested in joining to pop in. Members said that they have been working throughout the fall and winter to get more students interested in what the club has to offer. Promoting the club has been one of their big focuses. The club is relatively new to the school and members expressed a lot of interest in getting more students involved in the club before they start pursuing some of their larger goals for the year.
To raise awareness, they made an Instagram account (@wvhs.environmentalclub) that helps students keep up on club activities if they aren't able to make it to meetings and it has really helped in getting people more interested in learning about the club."I'm excited to see how the club grows, whether that be in members or outreach." Jillian Dauth, club member, said.
Outside of focusing on growth, members of the club have been working on volunteer activities within the community. The first organized volunteer activity that club members participated this year was a work day with Friends of Trees, an organization that plants trees throughout the greater Portland area. Members were happy to participate and were proud to be giving back to the community through this event. "My favorite thing about Environmental Action Club is how passionate all the members are to the cause. We actively do things within the community that help our environment, including the school." Jillian Dauth, club member, said.
The overall focus of the club for this year is helping Wilsonville High School take steps to earning their Green School Certification. A Green School is a school that has reduced its environmental impact and worked to improve literacy in sustainability for all students.
The most important thing for the club is keeping the school green and they have been working closely with the club's adviser and school administration to accomplish this.
One activity that members organized this fall was taking inventory of all of the recycling bins in the school, and implementing ones where needed.
Another step that club members have taken is expressing interest in attending a green school summit, taking place in Portland this spring to learn more about steps they can take to earn Wilsonville High School's certification.
Members said they were excited to be able to be taking action to improve the school and were hoping to take further strides throughout the rest of the school year to work towards earning certification.
Overall the Environmental Action Club is very excited for the growth in store for their future and are excited to continue spreading their message and improving the school and community.
-Ainsley Mayes, Wilsonville High School
Fighting climate change together
As the impacts of climate change continue to escalate and ravage our environment, it may seem like everything is out of our hands. It may seem impossible for an individual to be able to make a difference as we continue to witness the detrimental effects of climate change across the globe. Yes, it's true that one person alone is incapable of minimizing this crisis. However, an individual has the power to take initiative and partake in this fight alongside others. You have the power to join your community in driving this movement forward, step by step. You have the power to help make a change.
As Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr's wife, declared, "It doesn't matter how strong your opinions are. If you don't use your power for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem." If each and every one of us does our part, we can achieve a much greater impact on our environment.
Rhiannon Harris, a 17 year old student and activist from Franklin High, along with many others, is taking action to fight climate change and has a passion for the cause.
Harris has participated in multiple climate strikes including one organized by Greta Thunberg on September 20th, 2019.
"Thousands of people, just in Portland, gathered with a united voice, speaking with the rest of the world, protesting against the actions the United States government has taken as well as corporations," Harris said. "It was an amazing experience, one that made me feel like change was really going to happen. The collective passion was so powerful that people didn't notice when their feet began to blister from walking far distances, and people's voices were so loud that it felt like our government would really listen. Maybe they will, protest after protest."
Climate action is important to Harris, as she understands that it's something that will be essential for the circumstances of future generations.
Rhiannon has a 2 year old brother, and she wants for him to have the opportunity to enjoy and cherish nature as he grows up.
"If we do nothing — he won't be able to play outside anymore because the air will be so horrible that he won't be able to breath. He will know thousands of animals such as polar bears and koalas as being extinct for as long as he can remember," she said.
Vibrant green trees, clear blue skies, stirring blue waters, diverse animal species, a crisp cool breeze. The beauty of nature we would all hope the generations after us will be able to connect and be one with. "Climate action is extremely important. It is necessary to save the lives of people less fortunate than my brother; people who will be forced out of their homes due to an increase in natural disasters, people who are caught in horrible fires such as the one raging in Australia right now. Climate action is extremely important to me. Not to just save my future, but that of my brother and his generation as well," Harris said.
After being exposed to the severity of the climate crisis, Harris adjusted her lifestyle and does what she can to limit the issue to her fullest extent. To protest against methane and carbon emissions produced by factory farms, she no longer consumes meat. She has also limited the amount of clothes she buys to fight fast fashion. To achieve sustainability, Rhiannon recycles, composts, doesn't waste food, and walks whenever possible. Additionally, she takes part in activism groups and activities including the Portland Climate Youth group.
"The change that I myself have made on fighting climate change is small in comparison to legislative change that could be made. But if everyone does what I do and more, then the planet might just be alright," she said.
Furthermore, the best way to get started on taking actions that can have the biggest impact on this situation is by practicing the 3 Rs of sustainability — reduce, reuse, and recycle in your home and local area. In Wilsonville, the public can participate in events and volunteer work through the Natural Resources Program. This program tackles issues including wildlife and habitat conservation, water quality, and waste disposal.
Wilsonville is also recognized by the Tree City USA program, which promotes the protection of urban forestry. Additionally, every winter we are given the opportunity to join the Friends of Trees program to help plant trees around our city.
"Reducing driving, eating less meat and processed foods as well as protesting large manufacturing companies are great ways to reduce climate change, but the biggest impact we can have is forcing our representatives in Congress to change legislation to ensure that the country takes a collective action to fight climate change. If people are willing to put taxpayer dollars to fighting climate change then the problem will be fixed a lot sooner than a singular person trying to do it all," Harris explained.
Harris believes important for our generation to participate in activism for topics such as the environment and climate change. "The younger generations will be the new politicians, new CEOs and the new presidents and the people who will experience the effects of global warming...If we don't change the future, who will?," Harris said.
By taking action, you help to strengthen the cause and inspire others around you to do the same. By each of us taking small steps forward, we can make a difference together.
-Isabella Scalise, Wilsonville High School
Looking closely at ZooTeens and Conservation Corps
A look at the Oregon Zoo's youth environmentalist groups
The environment has consistently proven to be a key point of concern amongst the youth of today. With activists like Greta Thunberg and climate marches increasing the way young people interact with the environment, it only makes sense that other opportunities arise for young people to do their part in helping the environment.
Enter the Oregon Zoo's ZooTeens and the Conservation Corps, a volunteer program for students grades nine through twelve.
"ZooTeens is a summer program at the zoo which strives to connect teens who are passionate about conservation issues to a platform," Athena Abrahamsen, a junior at West Linn High School and a member of both programs said.
When members of the ZooTeens demonstrate teamwork, leadership and a passion for the program, they get promoted to the Conservation Corps.
"The Conservation Corps team splits into smaller groups focused on specific conservation issues and develop a project throughout the school year to be used as an educational tool for the zoo," Abrahamsen said. The Conservation Corps meets once a month. Abrahamsen works with the Ocean group.
"Our focus is going to be based upon creating awareness among people of how to limit future plastic usage and consumption through education about how and why plastics are damaging to not only the ocean's ecosystems,' Abrahamsen said, 'but the ecosystems that rely upon the ocean as well, so basically all of the Earth. As well as providing people with possible alternatives."
Members of the ZooTeens take one of three jobs. As Community Conservation Activists who help visitors, share information about the zoo and talk about local conservation efforts. Interpreters, who talk about the history of animals at the zoo, how they can help with global conservation efforts and guide guests through parts of the zoo.The final job is the Camp Crew who help out with the zoo's summer day camps.
"I've been in the ZooTeens Program for four years now and this is my first year on Conservation Corps. Abrahamsen said. 'I found out about the ZooTeens Program while I was visiting the zoo one summer and thought it would be a good fit for me."
Abrahamsen cites her parents as the main inspiration for her environmentally conscious behavior for teaching her about the consequences of her actions and helping her find other figures like volunteers and educators to further her knowledge.
"Thanks to these individuals, they have inspired me to do the same," Abrahamsen said.
- Ethan Gill, West Linn HIgh School
A breath of fresh air
After spending six hours shuffling between classes every day, sifting through lectures and projects and presentations, the need to get outside can be strong. That's what inspired the founding of West Linn High School's Career and Technical Education (CTE) Environmental Club, a student-led group that aims to help promote and advocate for our natural world.
"The club is mainly a field trip club where we organize groups of like-minded students who care about the environment and want to learn more about the scientific and animal/ plant aspect of nature," Moya Moses, a senior at WLHS and club leadership member, said.
"We just organize trips," Moses said. "Mainly birding trips for groups to go out and be in nature together."
The club has arranged several field trips for students to participate in, including a birdwatching trip the weekend of Jan. 18- 19, and an upcoming trip at Oregon State University the weekend of Jan. 25-26.
At the OSU field trip, students were able to listen to a wildlife photographer talk about their 15-year journey photographing the greater sage-grouse bird, along with sitting in on other presentations from OSU students and alumni.
"One of my favorite was a presentation on the effects of rare bird sightings on birders," Moya said. "It was hilarious."
While the club has been active this year in planning events for students to enjoy, it's still fairly new to West Linn High School.
"The group was started last year and then formed together with the ecology clubs to make one group," Moses said. "And I think just last year it got the CTE certificate."
The CTE Environmental club is run by a leadership board that organizes the meetings and field trips, and is composed of Moses, along with Ella Johansen, senior, Lehua Rowland, senior, Anna Nielsen, junior, and Sophia Nielsen, junior.
At the meetings, students can expect an assortment of different activities, some of which consist of discussing upcoming field trips and events, sharing out about favorite animals and plants, and having open conversations about the Global Climate Strike.
"This week we're just sharing some sustainability projects that we're doing in our class [ecology], with the group," Moses said.
Unlike other clubs, the CTE Environmental club is based around the ecology field study class, however this doesn't exclude students not enrolled from participating. The club is open to all students, in all grades, and also welcomes any freelancers who don't want to to formally join the club but are still interested in attending field trips.
"We're hoping to accomplish helping to make a better base for the club next year because it's really new," Moses said. "And just creating an environment where people get to express their love of nature."
For students who have any questions, or are interested in joining the club, Moses added that, "If you want more information about when and where our field trips are, you should talk to our leadership or talk to members of the club."
-Skylar Moore, West Linn High School
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