This guest post by Eli Weiss of Woodland Park Zoo is the first in a 3-part series on their Innovative Solutions Grants+ project, exploring how teens in the Seattle area can empower each other and their peers for action on climate change.
The Path Forward
At the Woodland Park Zoo, we have been working for the past several years to engage our teen volunteers and interns on the issue of climate change. These efforts have ranged from trainings on climate science and interpretation to involvement in our pilot of a variety of on-grounds climate focused activities and games, and have resulted in a group of teens that share a common interest in climate change.
What we are still working on is getting our youth to the next stage of engagement, inspiring others to follow their example in taking action. This challenge is at the core of our current project, the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (Seattle Youth CAN!), a project that we will be undertaking in partnership with the Seattle Aquarium and the Pacific Science Center thanks to support from The Ocean Project's Innovative Solutions Grants+ Program .
Over the past couple months I have been meeting with climate leaders in Seattle and have been received with resounding enthusiasm for both supporting Seattle Youth CAN and for exploring new opportunities for our teen participants to engage other youth in community climate action efforts which may align with the city's recently adopted Climate Action Plan.
This feedback on the model we have set in motion is encouraging and I am optimistic that when our teens feel connected to local climate efforts and leaders that they will be more engaged in the issues and feel more compelled to want to do something about it.
Seattle Youth CAN!
ACTION is the key to change, and through forming Seattle Youth CAN we will train and support youth leaders to deepen their understanding of climate science, feel confident in engaging others in dialogue about climate change, and develop and launch successful climate action campaigns.
Over the past year with the latest IPCC report, UN Climate Summits, and the Peoples Climate March, the story has become even clearer. We need to take collective action and the change needs to be BIG and BOLD. Global and local leaders seem to agree that the days of just focusing on personal actions are behind us and this is why we believe our teens need to be engaged in supporting broader efforts and innovative solutions for change.
We have designed Seattle Youth CAN with this in mind. Our aim is to train and support teen leaders to develop local campaigns which will engage their peers in measurable climate action. We believe that through creating dialogue and connection to existing community scale efforts and leaders we will help our teens to find their role in the growing movement to take clear action to reduce carbon emissions.
What makes our model unique?
- A local network. We are bring together teens who have already expressed an interest in climate change and conservation through their involvement in teen programs at three leading informal science institutions in Seattle; Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Aquarium and Pacific Science Center. Teens will have many touch points throughout the year including collective training, events, opportunities to take action, and a culminating summit at the end of year one.
- A focus on youth action. Our initial audience for this project are the teen leaders in our existing programs, and then, in turn, their peers in the community.
- Teens supported by community. Throughout the year teens will be working with local climate action leaders to learn, develop and launch campaigns and connect to city wide efforts. Ultimately our campaign will be designed and carried out by youth leaders in our network, but they will be supported by staff at each institution and our climate action partners in the community.
With this project we are looking to explore if and how connecting youth to existing local climate action efforts enables them to create their own successful campaign and increases their ability to successfully engage their peers in action.
In launching Seattle Youth CAN, we are hopeful that we will identify key elements needed to support a youth action network that brings teens and community stake holders together. We believe that if we are successful, this model will become a valuable example for other communities that are looking to engage youth in climate action.
Recently, I was asked to lead a workshop on climate action at the Seattle Aquarium for their Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. I asked Xander Barber, of my teen climate leaders, to co-present with me. For us this was a great chance for us to share our Seattle Youth CAN model with a group of youth from around the Puget Sound. Based on the number for attendees that approached Xander and I after our session with interest in the network, I am hopeful that there will be broad support for the network.
2015 will be an exciting year as Seattle Youth CAN develops. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm of our teens that have helped us to build the vision for this project as well as our community partners and look forward to sharing our success with you in the months ahead!
-- Eli Weiss, Youth Programs Supervisor at Woodland Park Zoo