Local students part of international climate change project
The fourth grade classes have connected with a writing project that could influence decision-makers on climate change.
The project began with teacher Melinda Stabler’s contact in London, England. Her daughter, Lauren Stabler, is a doctoral candidate in the global sustainability program at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, whose current project is collecting letters from 10-year-olds around the world. The students are being asked to present their views on climate change.
“I’m her mom, and I teach fourth graders, so it seemed like a natural thing to do,” Melinda Stabler said Friday.
The students held a video teleconference with Lauren Stabler in late November, during which they spent half an hour in a question-and-answer session. The letter-writing project forms part of their classwork during December.
Melinda Stabler said her students acquired background in part by watching videos, including one on fossil fuels, one on greenhouse gases and another on what actions can be taken to counteract the human-caused elements of climate change.
The letters from Warren and other locations around the world will be reviewed by a committee at Anglia Ruskin and a selection of them compiled into a book, which will be presented to delegates at the 26th annual conference of parties for the U.N. Framework Conference on Climate Change, being held in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 9-19, 2020. Scientists from 195 countries are considering what needs to be done on a global scale to prevent further climate change and to counteract what already has occurred.
“In writing the letters, students include their thoughts, their concerns and what they hope for in legislation,” Melinda Stabler said. “This qualifies as classroom, and it’s also a way of starting a conversation that children can have an effect.”
Sitting in a small conference room at the school Friday, three of the students offered their views on the project and what they’ve learned from it so far.
“We need not to use cars as much, because they pollute the air, and we need to stop cutting so many trees because they make the air fresh,” said Victoria Norris.
Josie Venham said using solar power instead of coal is a useful goal, and developing transit systems – even using school buses more — instead of depending on personal cars would help.
“I think simple things, like using fluorescent lights instead of incandescent, inflating the tires on your car properly to get better gas mileage, would help not use so much fossil fuel,” said Noah Boykin.
The students said the project has opened some new horizons for them.
“I didn’t know the heads of countries did this (the climate change conference), and I learned there’s a lot I can do,” Boykin said.
Melinda Stabler said one of the classroom exercises asked the students to go through the beginning of their days from the time the alarm clock sounds to when they arrive in class and consider the energy use and daily impact of those actions.
The students said they have concerns about the future.
Both Norris and Venham are interested in animal sciences.
“We saw the effect on animals, like the polar bears,” Norris said.
Some animals, Venham said, have become extinct or are facing extinction.
“I worry about farms,” Boykin said. “I eat vegetables and meat. This could kill the things that we eat.”
But the project also is a hopeful one.
“If a couple of people start doing these things (to lessen climate change), it will get a little better, and other people will starting doing them, too,” Venham said.
Although adults are the decision-makers, they haven’t paid enough attention to the concerns of children, the group believes.
“Scientists don’t listen to kids because they think they know all things,” Norris said. Boykin added, “We’re the future generation, but on the other hand we haven’t been through the things they have.”
Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate change advocate, offers some inspiration for children.
“What she’s doing is cool, out there by herself, learning about other people and how climate change affects them,” Venham said.
As for what is coming, it might involve new technologies and less consumption.
“Manufacturers keep producing things. I like to buy new stuff, and that’s one of the hardest things to deal with,” Boykin said.
“In the future, I think we’ll see more self-driving cars, solar-powered buses and cars, faster bikes that are easier to ride, new technologies that can come if we start speaking up,” Norris said.
Boykin, who is interested in both art and engineering, said he already has a start.
“I was at home the other night, sketching a bike that could also power a phone,” he said.
The project also has the potential to connect the students with other countries, children with other experiences.
“It’s our hope to open contacts around the world through this, to get the kids educated about this, to educate themselves and others,” said Melinda Stabler.
It also will acquaint the Warren students with other parts of the world that have seen greater impact from climate change.
“Just a few degrees of temperature can change so much,” Boykin said. “The climate is a very fragile thing.”
Michael Kelly can be reached at email@example.com
Annual conference of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26)
• When: Nov. 9-19, 2020.
• Glasgow, Scotland.
• Agenda: Actions toward global sustainability.
• To include: A book of letters from 10-year-olds around the world with their views on climate change.
• Involved: Fourth graders at Warren Elementary School.
• For information: unfccc.int
Sources: UNFCCC, Melinda Stabler.