Saskatchewan

'We will have to grow up with this': Regina students go beyond the textbook to tackle climate change

A group of students at Lakeview Elementary School in Regina and their teacher are tackling climate change in the classroom in hopes of ensuring a better future for themselves and their peers.

Lakeview Elementary Grade 6/7 students hosting forum to talk about climate change solutions

Jared Clarke, far right in the top row, and his Grade 6 and 7 students have spent the majority of November preparing to hold a public forum on climate change. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

A group of students at Lakeview Elementary School in Regina and their teacher are tackling climate change in the classroom, hoping to ensure a better future for themselves and their peers.

"If we don't do anything, these kids that I work with every day, their future and the world that they're living in is going to be completely different than what it is now, and that scares me a lot," said Lakeview Grade 6 and 7 teacher Jared Clarke.

Last month, Clarke travelled to Pittsburgh as one of 60 Canadians who were trained by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore to become "climate reality leaders" under The Climate Reality Project — a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting climate change founded by Gore in 2011.

Clarke described the experience as "life-changing," and said when he returned to Regina he wanted "teach his kids about what I had learned."

If we don't do anything ... their future and the world that they're living in is going to be completely different than what it is now, and that scares me a lot.- Teacher Jared Clarke

He said he knew he needed to do something more engaging than simply assigning his students work from a textbook, while simultaneously instilling the sense that positive action will bring positive change.

"We wanted to do a event, so we decided to do the Lakeview Community Climate Conversation," Clarke said.

The public event is happening Tuesday, Dec. 5 but students have spent most of November designing posters, booking guest speakers, and listing the impacts of climate change on the planet.

'I feel a bit scared'

"I had no idea, really, what's going on before this project," said Grade 7 student Stella Pepler, adding she's now committed to doing her part.

"We watched presentations from Al Gore, like [his documentary] An Inconvenient Sequel, and I feel a bit scared from knowing that some people aren't putting in their part, and that innocent lives are being taken from heat waves and storms, and I just feel like we have to try and stop that."

Stella Pepler has been working on 'ecological footprints.' Each paper footprint lists an action someone can take to help address climate change. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

Pepler said she's made major changes in her own life as well. She now tries to walk to school and recruited her father to build her a compost bin in their backyard.

"I'm trying to make sure that I can be reducing my ecological footprint so that further generations have a better future, and that I have a better future too."

'We need to act now'

Like Pepler, Grade 7 student Kolby Swann "hadn't paid much attention to [climate change], but know I can tell it's a real thing."

He credits Clarke's creative classroom lessons and projects for helping him understand the issues.

"The best way to get kids to care about climate change is definitely to show them what is happening first, and then you need to do fun projects.

The best way to get kids to care about climate change is definitely to show them what is happening.-Kolby Swann

"Textbooks don't give kids as much information as just showing them … a video — then you can really see that people are struggling in this world because of the storms that have destroyed their houses and the floods from the icebergs melting."

Swann said everything he's learned "makes me really sad," but he feels empowered knowing he and his friends can do things to help.

Kolby Swann, far left, and his classmates take a break from making posters for the climate change forum they're hosting. (Rachel Zelniker/CBC)

"The biggest role kids can play is just like we're doing — ask your teacher if you can put on an assembly to teach, and kids can also help by just riding their bikes, and you could buy locally grown food so that the shipping doesn't pollute the water and our air."

But Swann said whatever action people decide to take, kids need to know that "we will have to grow up with this, so we need to act now."

Clarke's class will present their talk on climate change, and what kids and adults can do to stop it, at the Lakeview School Gym on Dec. 5. 

The talk is targeted to ages 10 and up and everyone is welcome.

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