THUNDER BAY – Students from throughout the region gathered this week to not only learn about climate change, but come up with creative ways to combat it at their school and in their communities.
Gabriella Pelletier, a Grade 8 student at Pope John Paul II school in Thunder Bay, was among the 120 students who took part this week in Eco Superior’s Youth Agents of Change Conference, tasked with coming up with a project to bring back to their school.
Passionate about climate change and global warming, the youngster said she decided to attend the conference to learn more about the subject at hand and maybe even have small impact fighting it at her school.
“I find it very interesting when there are politicians who disagree with it or when you have all these scientists working so hard to create solutions and there are people out there believing it’s a hoax or it’s not real,” she said.
“Getting the word out is something I’m very passionate about.”
Ridding her school of excessive waste from lunch was the idea latched upon by Gabriella, her classmates and her teacher.
“So it’s making sure that the recyclable items are getting in the recycling bin and the trash is getting in the garbage and it’s where it needs to be,” she said, knowing it won’t be an easy sell, even in the age of recycling.
Charlie Barten, a fellow Grade 8 student at Bishop E.Q. Jennings School, said it’s clear to him that climate change is affecting the world day to day.
It’s his reason for attending the three-day conference.
“I guess it’s just time to take action,” he said, noting lack of action could lead to more droughts and severe weather incidents.
His school’s project carried a similar theme to Grabriella’s, seeking a way to cut down on the amount of waste being generated at his school, particularly the amount of paper used.
The solution is to use more technology.
“We use something called Google Classroom, but I don’t think we’re using it enough, because we’re using too much paper. I think we can use it more and use less paper,” he said. “We can also use reusable containers and plastic bags for packing our lunches and stuff like that.”
Pope John Paul II School teacher Michael Tracz is co-chair of the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board’s environment’s stewardship team, said the action plan is a great learning experience for the students.
“First of all, it shows them the holistic problem solving and completion process. The second thing is (the project) has to elicit change, and change is going to happen in the community, especially in our school community, and they need to teach other students. That’s sort of the highest level of learning for them,” Tracz said.
There’s also the trickle-down effect, as well as the ongoing relationship between the students and schools taking part in the conference.