Climate change is one of the most important issues we face today and in the future. In Virginia Beach last weekend, 40 high school students from across Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania worked to develop climate change solutions that can be implemented in their communities at the biannual Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Student Leadership Summit.
Over the course of three days from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, high schoolers in CBF’s Student Leadership Program discussed pressing issues with environmental leaders and investigated the impacts of climate change on local forests, marshes, and the Chesapeake Bay by collecting water quality data and conducting biological surveys.
They spent the weekend at CBF’s Brock Environmental Center and camped at First Landing State Park, also working on maintenance of native plant gardens and oyster restoration. Each student developed a final action project identifying solutions and recommendations for climate resiliency in their communities and across the region.
Luna Mendoza Castro of Virginia Beach is a junior at An Achievable Dream Academy. Mendoza joined students from across the region to make a difference in addressing climate change and resiliency.
“It affects us every single day, whether we want it to or not. If there’s flooding, I’m going to be affected by it. I can’t get to school sometimes even,” Mendoza said. “I’m still young and I want to make an impact now, rather than waiting too late and wishing I had.”
CBF's Student Leadership program equips the next generation of environmental stewards to take action through advocacy, restoration projects, and addressing issues in their communities. It is open to all high school students in the Bay watershed, which encompasses parts of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
“Student leaders are making a difference locally by finding solutions that create more resilient communities and healthier rivers and streams,” said CBF Vice President for Education Tom Ackerman. “These students are the next generation of environmental problem-solvers and they set an important example for their peers and all of us.”
Charlotte Kearns of Catonsville was one of the many students who traveled from Maryland to Virginia Beach to tackle climate change issues.
“The Patapsco floods a lot. Increased flooding really hurts our Ellicott City community. We can see firsthand the impacts to our rivers,” Kearns said. “Through working with communities, you can have a better environmental impact.”
Morgan Stellfox of Enola, Pennsylvania, is a junior at East Pennsboro High School.
“It helped build my confidence that climate advocacy can make a difference, and climate resiliency is possible,” Stellfox said. “I found the oyster bagging educational because it covered an area I didn’t know too much about, being from PA, and it was really interesting to see a method of reusing [oyster shells] to recover the [oyster population] in action.”
This is the 50th year of CBF’s award-winning environmental education program, which has led more than 1.5 million people in hands-on environmental investigations.
Research shows that outdoor learning helps students improve resilience, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork, and leads to higher test scores and stronger engagement in school.
CBF offers many different types of environmental education experiences. Schools can sign up to take students on a CBF field experience at www.cbf.org/education. To find out more about CBF’s student leadership program, visit https://www.cbf.org/join-us/education-program/student-leadership/index.html.