Published on November 29, 2019

Youth Climate Action Summit a Great Success

Summit participants in a breakout discussion © Mary Whitty
© Mary Whitty

For years, Stony Brook has been concerned about the changing climate and people's perspectives on how best to blunt its impacts.

Along with other Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries, we began discussing how we might address some of the questions that often arise in the broader context of what climate change means and what should be done about it. All of us agreed that an important course of action would be to engage local high school and college students in exploring perceptions of climate change and actions people could take locally to mitigate the effects.

The first step in this direction was to sponsor a Youth Climate Action Summit, which took place on November 13. 

Together with Oak Knoll and Moose Hill, staff members developed a framework for the summit that would bring together a diverse student body to identify the issues and actions they could work on collaboratively. We reached out to Wheaton College, Attleboro High School, King Philip High School, and Sharon High School and fashioned a plan.

The all-day event brought together more than 100 high school students and teachers from Plainville, Sharon, Wrentham, Attleboro and Norfolk, providing opportunities to build leadership and organizational skills to serve the students during school and beyond. Participants learned to identify, explore, and understand the most important principles and concepts of climate science, under the direction of Mass Audubon staff and Wheaton professors and students. The day was characterized by enthusiastic discussions, thoughtful responses, and the identification of actions that students articulated in their afternoon conference sessions.

"This summit was a great opportunity for our students and teachers to interact together outside of the classroom, and for our students to see firsthand how passionate their teachers are about the topics they teach," said teacher Ann Lambert, head of the science department at King Philip Regional High School.

The next step for these students? Creating locally-relevant Climate Action Plans that they can implement in their schools and/or communities.

Overall, the participants rated the Summit a great success. "The enthusiasm, interest and engagement from every student was something I had not anticipated or witnessed previously," said Sanctuary Director Doug Williams. "I believe that every person was excited to be attending and determined to move us in a positive direction."

Williams was impressed by the level of knowledge and respect everyone brought to the discussions, and he looks forward to developing more ways Mass Audubon and Stony Brook can work with the community to address this critical issue.