Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is planning to hold its first-ever Youth Climate Summit in March 2022. The idea for this summit developed after MCPS recognized increased student interest in climate action. Using a portion of a science grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, MCPS held a five-week internship over the summer for a group of students to develop an action plan and proposal for the Youth Climate Summit. Now that the summit’s date and location have been finalized to Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Universities at Shady Grove, MCPS has moved onto the next phase of organizing this event.
The summit will be a full-day conference designed to educate high school students across Montgomery County about climate change and equip them with the tools to develop climate projects in their communities. Students will learn about a variety of issues linked to climate change, such as policy, STEM, equity, and public health through workshops that include engaging activities and teachings from guest speakers. In the climate action planning session, students will work in teams to address an environmental issue in their school or community.
Students interested in participating in the summit would reach out to a designated staff member at their school, who would later become their mentors in implementing their climate action plans. The summit’s ideal participant is someone new to climate action and looking for ways to make a difference, but there are opportunities for all. MCPS plans to include students already involved in climate action as part of a larger planning committee rather than as participants.
Leading by example is a major theme the planning team aims to establish at the summit. To do that, the team hopes to make the event as waste-free as possible. With help from established student art and environmental groups, they plan to decorate the conference space with recycled art. Additionally, vegetarian/vegan options will be provided for lunch and attendees will be encouraged to bring snacks in their own reusable containers. MCPS will also provide their new electric busses for attendees to carpool in, emphasizing the importance of green transportation.
MCPS has outlined initiatives to support the installation of green roofs, solar panels, and geothermal systems at many of their schools. Previous efforts towards sustainability include the implementation of water bottle refilling stations at all schools and the widespread ban of polystyrene lunch trays, which have been replaced by recyclable cardboard trays. School Energy and Recycling Teams (SERT) have been implemented at every school.
MCPS is also working to expand climate curriculum to improve K-12 environmental literacy and increase outdoor learning. Additionally, MCPS hopes to increase exposure to careers in the green industry and knowledge of the pathways to get there, with an intended effect of the summit being to raise interest in environmentally related careers.
Participant registration will open in December 2021. For more information, visit bit.ly/MCPSYCS. Any comments, suggestions, or connections to potential speakers and other resources should be sent to MCPS Instructional Specialist, Dina Link at Dina_S_Link@mcpsmd.org.
Written by: Ona Olisa, Montgomery County Climate Intern