This past June, I attended the Student Climate and Conservation Congress (Sc3), which is a weeklong congress for kids in Junior High and High School. The congress is located near Shepherdstown, West Virginia at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC). Sc3 is run by the Green Schools Alliance, a global network of schools working together to educate the world about environmental issues. The goal of Sc3 is to “empower outstanding student environmental leaders with the skills, knowledge, and tools, necessary to address natural resource conservation challenges and better serve their schools and communities.” Nearly one hundred and fifty teachers and students from around the country attended this conference, and I’m sure that every one of them left with the ability to change their community.
When I first learned about this conference, my one reservation was that I thought “what if it’s just a bunch of tree-huggers wanting to protest for climate change?” However, the conference was far from that. The amount of diversity found at Sc3 was amazing. Kids from both urban and rural societies in dozens of different states participated. Just walking around the NCTC campus was inspiring on its’ own.
About half of the conference was focused on lectures by various speakers. These weren’t ordinary boring classroom lectures, but engaging speakers who interacted with us throughout. I consider myself to be more focused on the science aspect of the environment than anything else, but every talk that was given sparked a whole new interest in me — whether it was Comedian Pete Dominick talking about how the media portrays news, or PBS host Carl Safina reading excerpts from one of his many books written about parts of the ocean. When we weren’t listening to talks, most of our time was spent in project groups. At the beginning of the week, we roamed around to different rooms in the NCTC, and in each room there would be a discussion about a topic related to the environment. Each topic was led by teachers who came from schools equally as diverse as the kids. Some of the 10 groups I participated in were transportation, food, and government/media. Eventually, we decided which discussion we liked to participate in the most, and “Locked-In” to it. For the rest of the week, we worked with our project group to create a presentation for the last day. I chose to lock-in to the government/media group. We decided to put together a video that promotes action on environmental issues, and we interviewed many of the Sc3 speakers. In addition, we made a toolkit that each student could take home after we presented, and use as guidelines for taking action in their own community, and talking to local government representatives.
Many of the students I met at Sc3 I am still in contact with, and talk to about various sustainability issues. I also participated in campfires each night, a beautiful kayaking trip down the Potomac river, and a service project in Sheperdstown where we cleaned out invasive plant species from a stream. There were even workshops varying from learning about bats to watching bees under a microscope. Going into this congress, I never thought that I would come out with such a plethora of knowledge about a topic that seemed fairly simple to me before. The environment isn’t about everything that’s green — there is much more to it than that. During the congress, I had the opportunity to talk to Margaret Watson, President and Founder of the Green Schools Alliance. One of the main questions she had for anyone was “how can you make a positive conservation change in your community?” Thanks to my attendance at Sc3, I feel empowered to make that change.
I hope that I will be able to share the video my project group created with our Friends community, and figure out how we can take our own action through initiatives like writing to a representative about NYC sustainability, or protesting laws that aren’t helpful to the environment. I would also like to note that my participation at the Sc3 was made possible through the Friends Student Summer Scholarship, and I want to give a huge thanks to the donors.
A link to many photos I took while at Sc3 can be found here.