Becoming Environmental Activists—Action Plans and Making a Difference

Upper School students in the Climate Science and Environmental Justice Class, taught by Upper School history teacher Andy Bigelow and Upper School science teacher Ryan Zaremba, spent this week learning how to make a direct difference in the world related to climate change.

Working with Close Up Foundation, an organization that helps students develop critical skills as active citizens in participatory democracy, class members participated in three sessions illustrating ways that individuals are making a difference and inspiring their own actions toward fighting climate change.

During the first session, students met with Solemi Hernandez, the Southeast regional coordinator of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a climate change organization that works toward climate solutions by enabling individual use of personal power. Hernandez told her story and why she chose to become an activist directly from the Glasgow Climate Change Conference.

“The students loved Solemi—she lives and breathes by example in all that she does,” said Bigelow. “She was a positive influence and gave us hope that change is possible.” 

The next session consisted of deliberation about what, if anything, the government should do to address climate change. Students considered the Green New Deal, the Environmental Justice for All Act, President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Plan and the institution of a carbon tax.

In the final session, students learned about other young people’s journeys toward activism and began developing the areas they wished to pursue. With ideas ranging from combating mass fossil fuel production on the South Side to clean energy transportation options, students began creating action plans for implementing solutions and making an equitable impact.

Bigelow said, “This is an exciting group of mature and exemplary seniors—13 women and 5 men—who brighten our day and give us hope that this generation will step up and slow the roll of climate change and be the ones to advocate and educate.” 

Close Up’s work is right in step with Parker’s mission. Seeing activism in action shows how people as young as these students are using their voices to fight injustice and making waves to effect change, which inspires our students to be active citizens themselves.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.