Youth Climate Program

The Wild Center's Youth Climate Program was born out of a major national climate conference held at the Center in 2008. The conference, Land of Opportunity: The American Response to Climate Change,  brought leaders from around the nation into a closed-door gathering to find a way that we could map a path to lower carbon emissions for the United States. The Conference attendees included John HoldrenFrances BeineckeMichael Levi and more than 150 others.  What this conference, and another Adirondack conference that followed, did not have, was student participants.

A few students were invited to watch the proceedings, and for one, Zach Berger, watching wasn't enough. He approached The Wild Center to see whether he could help organize a Youth Summit for students in the region, where students could come, learn, and develop their own action plans for their schools. The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was hatched from that idea.

Each year the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit reaches more than 25,000 students represented by the 150 participants from 27 high schools, colleges and universities across the North Country. It has also reached across the Atlantic, as a model for a Finnish Youth Climate Summit. For the past five years the Summit has given students the tools to make changes in their own schools. The Summit has led to financial savings and shifts in mindsets across the Park.  Students who participated over the past few years returned to their schools implementing changes including creating school gardens to provide food for their cafeterias, expanding recycling and composting programs, and carbon audits for energy programs.

The Summit has grown to encompass a full-year program with outreach, educational and leadership opportunities for the students.

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2016 Summitk

The 2016 Adirondack Youth Climate Summit is NOVEMBER 3rd & 4th. Registration is officially OPEN and on a first come first serve basis, but don't procrastinate as this amazing experience fills up fast! Click the arrow above to register and get more details about this years summit. Please use this page and our Facebook page as a way of keeping in touch.



In collaboration with North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), program champions excellence and innovation in youth programming that uses the environment as pathway to STEM learning

NORTHBROOK, IL and WASHINGTON, D.C.  – The Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate Program, a year-round program emphasizing climate literacy and community action related to climate issues that reaches out to high school and college students and teachers in the Adirondack region of New York, has been named one of the five winners in the second annual UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) Innovative Education Award program. The program will receive a grant of $50,000. 

The Adirondack Youth Climate Program, which serves high school and college students culminates annually in a youth climate summit with scientists, climate experts, and educators. 

Developed in collaboration with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), the UL Innovative Education Award was open to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada that serve to motivate K-12 students about science and research through E-STEM programming and education about the environment. The intent is to support innovative organizations that are inspiring future researchers, scientists, and problem solvers. 

“What began in 2009 as a way of creating student leaders in climate change has exploded, especially in the past few years,” says Jen Kretser, Director of Programs at The Wild Center. “The program has been recognized by the White House, we’ve sent youth representatives to COP21 in Paris and the United Nations and inspired other summits throughout the world. To be recognized in the highly competitive UL Innovative Education Award program is an honor.”

Four other grants were awarded, including a top prize of $100,000. An additional $50,000 grant was awarded along with two others of $25,000 each. 

All five winning teams from the UL Innovative Education Award (ULIEA) program will meet in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, Aug. 17-19 on the UL campus for the second ULIEA kickoff meeting and leadership summit. 

“We were impressed by how The Wild Center’s Adirondack Youth Climate program encourages youth to present the source of the problem and implications of the problem to various audiences and how they enabled youth to advocate for feasible solutions,” Cara Gizzi, Director of Public Safety Education and Outreach says. “The judges noted that this year’s winning programs demonstrated the lasting returns on investing in sustained contact with the learners over months as well as years. The Adirondack program and the other winners are the ideal ‘deep learning’ programs that offer effective, meaningful, and measurable engagement in STEM learning that can be readily tracked over time.”

The UL Innovative Education Award proposals demonstrate the values of service learning and a bottom-up approach that includes as many diverse voices, among the core features of the goals for the NAAEE’s ongoing National Project for Excellence in Environmental Education, according to Christiane Maertens, NAAEE’s Deputy Director. “Building on the strengths of service learning, these projects show the impact of the ways people are experimenting with experiential learning,” Maertens says. “Youth are participating in projects that offer tangible benefits to their communities and that learning is directly associated with creating that benefit. These projects also represent many voices including urban, religious, indigenous, people of color, elderly, and women-led populations. For youth, this means achieving a more complex understanding of environmental issues, critical thinking, process and problem solving and seeing how STEM can meet the needs of the community.”

About UL

UL is a premier global independent safety science company that has championed progress for more than 120 years. Its nearly 11,000 professionals are guided by the UL mission to promote safe working and living environments for all people. UL uses research and standards to continually advance and meet ever-evolving safety needs. It partners with businesses, retailers, manufacturers, trade associations and international regulatory authorities to bring solutions to a more complex global supply chain. For more information about our certification, testing, inspection, advisory and education services, visit


The North American Association for Environmental Education is a pioneering membership organization dedicated to accelerating environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education. NAAEE supports a network of more than 20,000 educators, researchers, and organizational members working in environmental education in more than 30 countries through direct membership and 53 regional affiliate organizations. Through community networks, publications, signature programs, and eeNEWS and eeJOBS, NAAEE provides programming and resources for professionals working in all areas of the field. NAAEE’s tentpole annual conference, now entering its 45th year, convenes leaders from private and public sectors to advance the field of environmental education. For more information, visit and

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Report from COP 21

Jen Kretser, Gina Fiorile and Stephanie Ratcliffe were at the heart of the climate change movement - the UN COP 21 talks in Paris in November 2015. It was a whirlwind few days when world leaders from 156 countries descended to open the 2 week negotiation period – they left and the work began for countries to come to an agreement to keep climate warming below 2 degrees Celsius. As part of this historic event there were 40,000 people, from around the world, in Paris to not only work on the negotiations, but also make their voices heard. 

The Wild Center and our partners attended to represent youth. Gina opened the US Pavilion as a featured speaker on youth engagement and climate change.

The momentum continued with Our Time to Lead: Youth Engagement on Climate Change, a youth climate engagement and leadership event hosted by Universcience - the Paris Science Center and coordinated by the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Participating science centers from Finland, South Africa, India and Argentina joined the conversation live & online to COP21 participants. Youth delegates on site had a conversation on how they are working in their communities including interviews with Gina Fiorile and a local audience. In addition, a panel of climate scientists participated including Frank Niepold – Climate Education Coordinator for NOAA; Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Professor of Climatology and Environmental Sciences at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium; and Owen Gaffney - Director of international media and strategy at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and writer and analyst working in global-change research.

AYCS 2015

Hear the thoughts and plans of Adirondack students at the 7th Adirondack Youth Climate Summit as they plan the future of their schools in ways to help mitigate climate change.



The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit has garnered attention, awards, and praise for both its model and its leaders. See a sampling of what that has been like.


Summits in Situk

Youth Climate Summits have been spreading across the country and around the world. Take a look into some of the places Summits have been held!



What has come out of the Youth Climate Summits is beyond anything that seemed possible eight years ago. Take a look at a few highlights of what Summit participants have done!