On Saturday, June 3, teachers in the New York State Master Teacher Program at Buffalo State are hosting the Western New York Youth Climate Action Summit for 90 high school students representing 25 area schools.
The Climate Action Summit’s website presents a clear rationale, saying, “Climate change poses an existential threat to the well-being of societies and ecosystems around the world.” The purpose of the summit is only partly to educate students about climate change, a topic covered in regular classes. The larger purpose is to equip the students to recognize that they have “very real power to alter the course of our future.”
The Master Teacher Program was created to enrich teachers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, provide opportunities for professional development, and create a community of teacher-scholars. The Western New York cohort includes 103 teachers; 13 were involved in putting together the all-day summit to be held at Buffalo State.
Kelli Grabowski, a native of Lockport who teaches earth science and GIS (geographic information systems) at Cattaraugus-Little Valley High School, worked to develop the climate summit. “We want to truly educate our students about climate science,” she said, “and we want to help our best and brightest Western New York youth become leaders in solving the climate crisis.”
“I think the teachers who pulled this together want students to go beyond the three R’s often taught in schools,” said David Henry, associate professor of elementary education and reading at Buffalo State and co-director of the Western New York Master Teacher cohort along with David Wilson, associate professor of mathematics. The three R’s of the environment are reduce, reuse, and recycle.
“These teachers know that we need more than that to address the climate change problem,” said Henry. “We want students to be able to take action, and to do that, you need to understand the science behind climate change and the possible actions that individuals can take.”
Event Ends with Dinner Cruise on Lake Erie
The 12-hour event begins with an introduction over breakfast and ends with a dinner cruise aboard the Miss Buffalo. “Climate change affects the Great Lakes watershed, so ending the day with a close look at Lake Erie is appropriate,” said Henry. “However, the main reason for the cruise is to provide the students with a memorable event and a chance to continue networking with like-minded people.”
During the day, students will take part in three workshops: basics of climate change; a competition to design and build a wind turbine; and citizen science with NASA using NASA’s GLOBE Observer app. The presenters represent the Paleontological Research Institution; the Adirondack WILD program; the WNY Environmental Alliance; SUNY Fredonia; and Buffalo State. After 3:00 p.m., students will attend two sessions focusing on civic engagement.
Asked what she hoped students will take away from the summit, Grobowski quoted António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, who said, “Climate change is undeniable, climate action is unstoppable, and climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable." Grabowski added, “When I read it, I couldn't help but see the parallels to how we have developed this summit.”
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