Western Mass Youth Climate Summit Supports Student Led Climate Action Planning

December 19, 2019

Sadie Ross and Ollie Perault helped to organize the 2019 Western Mass Youth Climate Summit.

The Western Mass Climate Summit, now in its third year, brought together 12 school teams and 75 students from Massachusetts and Connecticut for a 2-day intensive, empowering students toward action on community solutions at their schools. The event is a partnership between Hitchcock Center and Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Sanctuary and this year for the first time, the Summit’s goals and plan were developed and guided by Sadie Ross, a student at Frontier Regional School and Ollie Perault a homeschool student.

Mass Audubon Climate Change Program Manager, Alexandra Vecchio, speakers to participants.

Day one featured a morning of concurrent workshops on various climate change related topics, from composting and energy saving, to making better food choices, citizen science, and song writing. The day was geared specifically toward learning about the solutions to climate change to help inspire students with ideas and problem-solving options and resources that can support their actions like energy audits through the Center for EcoTechnology. The inspirational keynote of the day was offered by Mass Audubon Climate Change Program Manager, Alexandra Vecchio on how youth can be empowered to make change. She was joined by students from Smith Divest, a student group who recently won their three-year campaign requesting Smith College to divest of fossil fuels completely.

Students role play challenging conversations on climate change.

Based on student’s own knowledge of their school and ideas generated from the Summit, students had time and opportunity to brainstorm ideas for their own Climate Action Plan (CAP) on day two. Students were inspired by some highlights, including the team from Frontier Regional School who presented on their CAP from 2018. This project has so far included power strip installation and heating system education for teachers, installation of motion sensor lighting in restrooms, aerators in bathroom sinks, and energy audits for their school. The team is taking their ideas further to develop a rainwater collection system to support the schools irrigation system; is proposing a plan to the superintendent to include climate change education in the elementary schools; and is applying for a $5,000 climate resiliency planning grant. Learn more about their plans here and here.

Students from greenfield High School talk together about their Climate Action Plan ideas.

Students presented their CAPs to the larger group to gain additional ideas and constructive feedback. Ideas included: asking their school’s administration to divest from fossil fuels, reducing the number of days meat is served, composting, using reusable utensils, holding a series of environmentally themed engagement activities as part of spirit week, organizing a march from northern Connecticut to Hartford to demand climate action from state leaders (we had one school from Connecticut!), building a greenhouse, conducting an all school climate survey, starting a ride-share program, and hosting a Cooler Community Expo in their community.

Other activities during the Summit included a workshop on how to communicate about climate change, an organic farm tour, climate games, a climate healing concert, and a Living Building Tour at the Hitchcock Center.

Students from Smith Divest share their experiences.

A few student responses to what they appreciated about the event include:

“Developing an action plan.”

“I appreciated making the climate action plan and making realistic goals.”

“Being able to learn about climate change in so many different ways.”

“Learning about different schools doing environmental solutions.”

“I enjoyed getting to work with other students and discuss the issues that we are currently facing.”

“Our time to come up with a project for our solution.”

“All the presentations! I can’t chose my favorite one!”

“The climate action planning was very empowering. I also loved the vegan meals. They inspired me to reduce my own meat consumption.”

“Presentations by others, being educated, and making a plan to help my school community”

Students were presented with a framework for climate change conversations.

Schools participating this year include: Suffield High School (CT), South Hadley High School, Hampden Charter School of Science East, Deerfield Academy, Frontier Regional School, Greenfield Highschool, Bement School, Williston Northampton School, Quabbin Regional High School, Hampshire Regional High School, Amherst Regional High School, and Northampton High School.

Thank you to the event sponsors who help support our youth, including our Apex Sponsor, Laura Townes, and our Climate Collaborator, Greenfield Northampton Cooperative Bank.

We’re excited to see these plans develop into concrete steps in each team’s school. We can’t wait to share their outcomes!

Learn more about the Western Mass Youth Climate Summit!

Learn more about youth projects in the valley by visiting our Youth Voices for the Environment.

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