Climate Kids: Science-Art-Storytelling-ACTION

Now, more than ever, our communities and livelihoods are vulnerable to the imminent consequences of climate change- but there is still time. If we are to manage and restore our life support system, we must foster a new culture. We must think differently, we must act differently, and we must engage differently. Addressing these challenges and building a resilient future takes more than just plans on paper or engineered solutions – it requires that people be at the center of solutions.  To do this right, we need an engaged, compassionate, and creative multigenerational community willing to come together to make hard decisions about our future.

As a society we have a tendency to tell stories that shock and scare as forms of entertainment. However, if we talk only of doom and gloom then we are playing into a feeling of hopelessness that isolate and turn people away from engaging. Instead, we need to change the narrative to stories that are defined by ingenuity, creativity, and innovative solutions so that we offer alternative views of the future where individuals see themselves as part of the solution. Whether it’s through story, conversation, or actions we need to identify and nurture the things that give us hope. Hope in ourselves and hope in others. We are in this together and we have a responsibility to prepare our children and the next generation to take this on. We need to be honest with our children but not spread fear or resignation.  We have a responsibility to train and prepare youth to face the threats of our changing climate with conviction, creativity, and a sense of purpose.

It with this in mind that I started the Climate Kids program in 2013 as part of my work leading the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast. Climate Kids utilizes a multi-generational collaborative approach that supports K-12 youth education on climate resiliency through hands-on science activities, storytelling, field trips, and art. At the heart of this program we work to foster active learning experiences to provide hands-on scientific opportunities, facilitate multi-dimensional climate messaging, and empower students to be climate resilient ambassadors. Its one thing to study science, and another thing to BE a scientist. Donning a lab coat and clipboard with data forms, students use inquiry based learning to better understand the world around them. Students are challenged with complex topics around climate science and the responsibility to figure out both impacts and solutions. Utilizing consistent messaging, local examples, and leveraging a range of activities we seek to awaken the scientist and artist in every child. We encourage the harebrained crazy schemes and a feeling that nothing is out of bounds when we use our creativity to think through difficult problems.

Since 2015, the Climate Kids program has reached over 22,000 students with multi-day events and trained 2,000 formal and informal educators.  Through strategic partnerships with climate scientists and qualified educators we are not only building a network we are building a community. As the program grows and more partners come to the table to lead Climate Kids initiatives or embrace the approach and messages we are seeing a shift as a new community of practice takes shape.  High school students are stepping up to create Climate Kids Clubs and embracing the role of Ambassadors to spread the word in elementary schools and community events. We are beginning to amass thousands of Climate Kids across San Diego and Orange County and Baja, Mexico. There are Climate Kids in St. Louis, MO and Helena, MT. We have a Climate Kids Tribal program across southern California. On the drawing board is plans for Climate Kids-Puerto Rico and Climate Kids-Sri Lanka. Youth are rising to fill these roles, to carry these stories, to engage with their communities, and to be part of something bigger than themselves. When I ask youth if they are the only Climate Kids in the world they yell proudly with a resounding “NO-we are everywhere!” It is this feeling of being part of something bigger that gives them strength but for me it’s the strongest glimmer of hope I could ask for.

Amber Pairis, Ph.D., Director, Climate Science Alliance-South Coast

Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Dr. Amber Pairis is the Director of the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast covering southern California and Baja. Her current work focuses on building a science focused network of leaders, scientists, and managers focused on sharing ecosystem-based resiliency approaches to safeguard our communities and natural resources from climate change. Pairis leads several initiatives focused on innovative community engagement including Climate Kids and the role of art and artists in building climate literacy. In 2017, Pairis was honored with the National Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources for her outstanding work in raising awareness and helping the nation’s natural resources become more resilient to the impacts of a rapidly changing world. In 2013 Pairis was appointed by Governor Brown as the Assistant Secretary for Climate Change-California Natural Resources Agency and worked collaboratively to coordinate the State’s activities related to climate change adaptation. Preceding the appointment, Pairis served as the Climate Change Advisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for five years and created the Department’s Climate Science Program and CDFW Climate College. In 2006 Pairis worked for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Washington D.C. where she was the Science Liaison coordinating between state and federal natural resource agencies on energy and climate change. Dr. Pairis completed her Ph.D. in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England. She is a fellow of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.
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