Monday, October 19, 2020

Wild Center partnership nets $449K to grow youth climate program

A $449,278 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Literacy Program will support The Wild Center as it helps empower young people to respond to climate change in their communities.

The three-year project builds upon a collaboration of The Wild Center, the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) as they support the development of leadership skills for rural youth by creating programming that demonstrates best practices for students and teachers to engage and partner with local municipalities on climate resilience planning. The project, called Empowering Rural Youth for Community Climate Resilience in New York State, will also increase awareness of the New York State Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program.

“It’s critical for students to learn about climate change-but studies are clear that education alone isn’t enough to lead to action,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, executive director of The Wild Center. “We also need to empower students to help their communities prepare for the changes that are likely to affect them.”

The grant was one of eight awarded this year from NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program, which supports education programs that use NOAA science to improve ecosystem stewardship and increase resilience to environmental hazards. The project will serve 700-800 rural high school students , 60-80 high school teachers, and 60 youth leaders in New York State. The project is also designed to  reach a much wider audience, including  30 rural decision-makers and community members, as well as 50-60 educators. Project documentation includes a Guide to the NY State Climate Smart Community Program for Students and Educators, and a Youth and Local Government for Climate Resilience Workshop Module, which will benefit other Youth Climate Summits and be disseminated through the online toolkit and through the national network of youth climate summits. Additionally, the project will support a community of practice for informal and formal educators across NY State who are working on new and existing Youth Climate Summits to provide the opportunity to align with the CSC program, collaborate on best practices, and co-create strategies for engagement.

While all of New York State will face urgent climate change-related challenges, every community’s response to the issue will differ. In more rural places, such as the Adirondacks, decreased snowfall might impact winter tourism. In the Finger Lakes region, increased flooding from intense storm events is already having an impact on lake water quality. “Students recognize climate change as a critical issue and want to be part of the solution,” states Nadia Harvieux, Education Program Manager at the Finger Lakes Institute. “This project is an exciting opportunity for youth to take action and help create a climate resilient future for their communities, in the Finger Lakes region, Adirondacks and beyond.”

The following activities will be supported over the 3-year course of the project:

  • Opportunities for youth to effectively partner with decision-makers in their home communities to work on climate action, engagement and resilience.
  • Youth Climate Summits and intensive Youth Climate Leadership Retreats will increase climate literacy, education and action among high school students.
  • Programming will increase educator comprehension and confidence to prioritize climate change education instruction and student mentoring.
  • Creation of the New York State Youth Climate Summit Network that will share best practices and actions that align with New York State climate change resilience planning.

Photo: Adirondack Youth Climate Summits students hold an ”I Am Pro Snow” rally at Mount Van Hoevenberg in 2016.  Mike Lynch/Almanack file photo.

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