Education for Sustainability can be a difficult task to accomplish in an ever-changing world. Students today face unprecedented challenges: climate change, gun violence, social injustice, and the depletion of resources. While we at the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation (CELF) believe these challenges present students with opportunities to innovate solutions, develop critical and systems thinking skills, we recognize messages of doom and gloom seen by students on a daily basis can elicit reactions of fear and hopelessness.
That is why CELF is pleased to announce our new partnership with Young Voices for the Planet, and its founder, Lynne Cherry.
The Young Voices for the Planet film series documents stories of youth speaking out, creating solutions, and catalyzing change. These uplifting stories focus on what young people are doing and how they are making a difference. The films inspire action as Lynne likes to say, “action is the antidote to fear.”
CELF has been showing two YVFP films in professional learning workshops. The film “Words Have Power,” has been an integral part of the CELF Citizen Science teacher training on air quality monitoring in school neighborhoods. This film tells the story of Jaysa who suffers from asthma—along with many other children in her school—in a community where particulate matter from a coal fired power plant affects the air quality and contributes to the county’s statistic of having the worst air pollution in the state. Jaysa worked with a group of citizens called the Healthy CT Alliance whose actions contributed to successfully closing Connecticut’s last coal fired power plant. Even though she was not old enough to vote, Jaysa studied the issue, wrote speeches and spoke up at city council to make sure her voice was heard. Using real world problem solving prepares students with holistic thinking skills so they are motivated to become agents of change to create a healthier and more sustainable future.
“Longing for a Local Lunch” is another YVFP film CELF has used with schools eager to incorporate fresh local food into the school cafeteria and wellness programs. These schools are eager to reduce processed food and incorporate fresh food grown locally. This seemingly simple idea presents teachers and schools with challenges ranging from health departments challenging the health of locally grown food to regulated short staffed cafeterias, to the need to keep the food costs low. The students from Monument Mountain High School in “Longing for a Local Lunch,” faced similar challenges. To solve these problems, a roundtable discussion was held with members of the community including state representatives from the Department of Health, the Department of Education, and the leader of Berkshire Grown, an organization that centers around locally grown food. This film shows teachers and students how to navigate the often invisible world of policy making encouraging students to speak out on issues they care about, and take action to create change in their communities.
Lynne Cherry is currently Visiting Scholar at The Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz, where she is collaborating with the Mid-Hudson Teacher Center to create a 6-hr online Professional Development Course on Civic Engagement and Democracy based on the Young Voices for the Planet film series. Interested teachers, environmental educators, and parents can register to download the YVFP Civic Engagement and Democracy Curriculum and be kept informed about the course release here: http://bit.ly/YVFP_CEAD_Curriculum.
CELF is delighted to partner with Young Voices for the Planet and to use their uplifting and inspiring stories of success to empower teachers and their students to take action in their own communities.
-Lisa Mechaley, Educator and Professional Development Facilitator