By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — With the help of Flash animations and hip-hop music, Plattsburgh High School students were encouraged Wednesday to take action against climate change.
During a presentation in the school’s auditorium, Brian Stilwell, an educator with the Alliance for Climate Education, told students how the future of the planet largely depends on their efforts to reduce carbon emissions caused by humans’ use of fossil fuels.
“It’s about you and the choices you make,” he told his audience.
A national nonprofit organization, the alliance strives to educate youth about climate change in hopes of inspiring them to be part of the solution.
“We really focus on solutions and what students can actually do ,” Stilwell told the Press-Republican in a separate interview.
After giving the alliance’s high-energy presentation on climate change at the Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate Summit in Tupper Lake in November, Stilwell teamed up with Jen Kretser, director of programs at the Wild Center, to bring the program to area high schools.
“We really wanted to do more in the schools,” Kretser said.
In addition to PHS, Kretser and Stilwell will have visited 13 other area high schools by the end of the week, spreading climate-change awareness.
MET WITH GREEN TEAM
Using colorful animations and lighthearted sound effects, the alliance’s program strives to educate kids about the devastating effects of rising global temperatures in a way that captures students’ attention and motivates them.
“We tried really hard to make this really relevant and engaging for a high-school audience,” Stilwell said.
The presentation includes clips of youth across the nation who have made efforts to reduce the carbon footprints in their schools and communities.
At the end of the program, Stilwell asks students to make a pledge to do one thing over the course of the year to reduce emissions, such as unplugging gadgets, carpooling to school and carrying reusable water bottles.
Stilwell also highlights student environmental clubs at each school he visits and encourages students to join.
“Usually, we can get between 10 and 30 students to sign up after the assembly,” he said.
After watching the presentation, PHS student Keisha McCray said she was surprised to learn how much damage humans are doing to the planet through their use of fossil fuels.
“If we don’t stop this, we’re, like, all going to die, and I’m scared of that,” she said.
The ninth-grader vowed to do her part to help the environment by recycling and unplugging electronics when not using them.
”I would love to help the environment more,” she said.
Following the assembly, Stilwell and Kretser attended a meeting of the PHS Green Team, which formed four years ago after students from the school attended one of the Youth Climate Summits.
In addition to spreading awareness about climate change, the alliance also provides schools with resources, including project ideas, leadership training and grants to support them in their efforts to implement green projects.
The Green Team at PHS has already made positive contributions to the planet by encouraging the district to replace the High School’s broken water fountains with ones that include a faucet for students to refill water bottles. The group also sells and gives away refillable bottles in an effort to deter people from buying bottled water and throwing the plastic vessels away.
The school now has several of the fountains throughout the building, one of which the Green Team raised money for and purchased itself, and others that the district agreed to invest in.
In addition, the group has begun composting at the school and encourages fellow students to recycle.
“Simple stuff just makes a difference,” said Connick Miller, a senior at PHS and president of the Green Team.
Miller added that the group is now focused on getting solar panels for their school.
“That’s one of our main goals this year,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: email@example.com