Paly, Gunn environmental clubs educate youth on climate change

Sophia Krugler and Sofie Zalatimo

In the coming weeks, middle school students will have the chance to learn about climate change from three Palo Alto High School environmental clubs as part of the annual Climatedu project, which was founded by Paly Eco. This year, presentations will happen virtually, an adjustment that has led club members to brainstorm alternatives to hands-on activities that previously required in-person instruction, according to Paly Eco Co-president and senior Zander Leong. Additionally, Gunn High School’s Green Team has already presented to Palo Alto Unified School District elementary schools and has been asked to return to present once a month, according to Leong. “[Students will present on] what is climate change, why are we causing it [and] the idea that we’re consuming resources unsustainably,” Leong said. “Then we really want to focus on the solutions. So what people can do in their daily lives.” Graphic: Kabir Advani

Despite the abrupt halt in day-to-day activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental issues have persisted, and so have Palo Alto High School students with their efforts to educate others on the impacts of climate change.

In partnership with other environmental clubs from Palo Alto and Gunn high schools, Paly Eco will present about climate change to middle schools in the coming weeks as part of its Climatedu project. 

According to Paly Eco Co-president and senior Zander Leong, members of the club created Climatedu two years ago to educate young students about the effects of and solutions to climate change.

“The goal behind it is to try to incorporate climate change into younger children’s education, because they can really have an impact as they grow up and develop, [and to] establish those ideas when people are young,” Leong said. 

In past years, members of Paly Eco visited local elementary schools to present about climate change. However, this year, members involved with the project will present to classes virtually, according to Leong. 

Paly Eco is partnering with Gunn’s Green Team, and two other Paly clubs: Fast Fashion Awareness and Project Eco. Gunn students have already presented to elementary schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District, and Paly students will present to the middle schools — Greene Middle School, Fletcher Middle School and Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School — in mid-March, according to Leong.

“In the past, it [Climatedu] was a lot different from what we’re doing,” Leong said. “One, because it was mostly elementary schools. So creating the curriculum for middle schoolers is a little different. And then also, that was in-person. So we had a lot of hands-on activities that we can’t do physically now.”

Project members are planning to incorporate online games, including Kahoot and Hangman, into their presentations to replace the usual hands-on activities, according to Leong. 

Fast Fashion Awareness Co-president and senior Noelle Burwell said she believes the project is a good way to spread information about climate change to students not involved in environmental clubs, a task she said has become more difficult with online learning.

“The club that I’m with this year, which is Fast Fashion Awareness Club, is new … so we’re definitely trying to expand our club and connect with other clubs and be involved in our community, our school community and larger community,” Burwell said. “So I think this is kind of a way to do that, to connect with other people and to create effective change.”