What's better than students learning sustainability? Students teaching sustainability! And that's just what happened at NY Sun Works' annual youth conference. Read on.
We love tracking the success of our ULIEA winning alumni! On May 9th, 2017 our 2016 grand prize winner NY Sun Works hosted their 6th annual youth conference with help from partners Broadway Stages and HortAmericas. This year's conference, "Discovering Sustainability Science," allowed 35 New York and New Jersey 5th-12th graders to present their creative sustainability and climate solutions to an auditorium of 600+ student peers (and even more via social media live stream) at Manhattan's Symphony Space. The event left students with a freshly engaged sense of social responsibility and interest in science and environmental issues - what more could you ask for? A 7th annual conference? (Yup, spoiler alert! It's already on the books.)
The presentations spanned a huge range of topics but all related to learnings and interactions with the Greenhouse Project, a NY Sun Works program that implements greenhouse labs into New York City schools. Students working in these labs grow real food while learning about nutrition, water management, efficient land use, climate change, biodiversity, conservation, contamination, pollution, waste management, and sustainable development. The conference invited students to share their creative climate and sustainability solutions, inspired by the labs, in one of these three sessions:
- Building Sustainable Cities: design and architecture, sustainable building materials and urban planning.
- Building a Sustainable Future: urban farming, feeding a growing population, food systems, and ocean conservancy.
- Building Sustainable Minds: project-based learning through the lens of STEAM, urban agriculture, health and nutrition.
Students were super inspired by their peers and engaged throughout the entire event - a feat in and of itself. "Our generation faces a new era of challenges to the environment and our way of life, but we also have the ability to learn, to work together, and to make change. We have the power to change the world, and science education for sustainability is one way these students are learning how to do that," said Sophia, an 8th grade student and past speaker.
The conference also featured special guest presentations by actor, director and producer Alan Alda, Alda Communications Chief Operating Officer Sarah Chase, and Climate Change and Sustainable Development advisor at the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University Anthony Annett. All spoke about the importance of effectively communicating scientific information.
As if 600 students and a celebrity appearance weren't enough, a youth press team comprised of students from participating schools covered the event and interviewed presenters/special guests live via social media. Organizers estimate they reached an additional 3,000 students, teachers and viewers that would have otherwise missed the presentations and education. Talk about spreading the sustainability love.
The results of this conference are game changing for STEM, science and environmental education. "This is a conference for students, by students, and the students are the ones benefiting. The presenters not only share their knowledge, but learn to present their findings to a large audience, and it empowers students to continue their work, and show them that they are part of a bigger movement. It fosters hope, empathy and a great sense of community, and shows students that we all have something to share regardless of what grade level we are at," said Sidsel Robards, NY Sun Works Director of Development and co-founder of The Greenhouse Project.
If you're interested in catching the 2017 conference, just check the NY Sun Works site - the presentations are being edited and will be posted in early June! Organizers are also eagerly planning the 7th annual conference and hope to see you there (or online). Check the NY Sun Works Youth Conference web site or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (all @NYSunWorks) for updates closer to the event. We'll see you there!