What happens when you combine a dedication to climate activism with a passion for helping others learn more about it?
For Montgomery Blair High School senior Vivian Li, it meant gathering a group of like-minded friends and figuring out a way to help others get an education about the climate in one important way they weren’t able to: Well before they entered high school.
Li’s interest in climate-related issues began about a year and a half ago when she went to camp in Bar Harbor, Maine. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the area, she began writing about her environment and proposed a piece about the connection between marine plastic pollution and the mercury in our oceans that travels through the food chain and finds its way onto our plates. Her essay won a New York Times Student STEM Writing Contest.
Also a Girl Scout, Li began planning her culminating service endeavor Gold Award Project around climate education, initially planning a daylong gathering for students with seminars about climate change and its effects. But COVID-19 quarantine happened, giving Li a chance to re-imagine a way to present information to those interested in finding it. And Climatedu– a seven-unit course for middle school-aged students interested in learning all about climate change and sustainability – was born.
“At its core, it’s just a bunch of really useful but really fun information that is compiled and delivered in almost like a guided web quest,” Li says. She and the team of about 20 friends write each of the units and include videos they’ve produced, hands-on activities, and links to lots of existing sources that the team has found really useful in their own climate education journeys. One of the program goals is for it to become part of the MCPS eighth-grade science curriculum.
“Sustainability and climate education are not really part of [the MCPS] curriculum right now. It’s briefly explained in middle school, but we never really talk about climate change and the role that we hold in that,” Li says. “In elementary and middle school, we kind of heard a lot about recycling but the end goal is not to create a bunch of trash and just clean it up after – it’s about building a more sustainable lifestyle and not creating that trash in the first place. A lot of that goes unaddressed in our county.”
The shift to online school delivery platforms this fall delayed building connections with middle school science teachers, but that push will resume in a few weeks to give those teachers a chance to settle into the new school year Li says, which will also give the Climatedu team time to complete the remaining program units between their own school work and homework assignments.
“We just think climate education is really, really important,” Li says.
For more information about the Climatedu program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube (@climateduteam.
Written by: Kim Hodges and Felicia Hodges