Looking to host a summit of your own? No matter where you’re located in the world, our Youth Climate Summit is a replicable, scalable model that any organization can base their own summit off of. To get you started, we’ve compiled a helpful Youth Climate Summit toolkit and appendix for you to download and start planning your own climate summit with. And if you need any help, don’t hesitate to reach out – we’re always here to support you along the way as we change the world together.
Watch the above informational webinar to learn how to host a Youth Climate Summit and engage high school students in a dialogue on Climate Change!
The Association for Science Technology Centers (ASTC) and The Wild Center have teamed up to share The Wild Center's successful Youth Climate Summit format designed to engage high school students in climate literacy, through meaningful dialogue and action planning on climate change. The webinar provides an overview of the Youth Climate Summit concept, impacts and outcomes for schools and students, and the planning resources available for free through our Youth Climate Summit Toolkit. Project Director Jen Kretser, science teacher Tammy Morgan, along with two summit students – Erin Weaver and Meadow Hackett – shared their experiences.
Encouraged by US government leaders and interest by other science centers, our collective goal is to share this convening program format at no cost and support the development of at least 10 Youth Climate Summits across the international science museum community in 2015. We will offer all the organizational tools you will need along with connections to scientific experts in your region.
Climate literacy education continues to be an urgent issue and this program format allows for informal science institutions such as science centers, zoos, aquariums and non-profits to join in the international effort. Youth Climate Summits have been found to be powerful vehicles for inspiration, learning, community engagement and youth leadership development. Climate literacy with a focus on local climate impacts and solutions is a key component of the Youth Climate Summit. The project-based learning surrounding the creation of a unique, student driven, sustainability and Climate Action Plan promotes leadership skills applicable and the tools necessary for a 21st Century workforce. This effort was highlighted as a commitment in support of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy’s Climate Education and Literacy Initiative, with the goal of connecting American students and citizens with the best-available, science-based information about climate change. The meeting was hosted by the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in support of their efforts to support Climate and Energy Literacy.
In 2013 Mountain Lake PBS and Bright Blue EcoMedia created a documentary – The Resilient Ones: A Generation Takes on Climate Change - about the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. View the film.
At The Wild Center the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit is project managed each year by Jen Kretser, The Wild Center’s Director of Programs. Over the years, Jen has refined the model, established partnerships, and expanded the depth of the participant experience, often drawing from ideas proposed by youth at organizing meetings. Her experience means a better Summit can be produced in less time now, compared to five years ago. She has also become an expert at incorporating youth into the event planning process. We would love to help you plan a Youth Climate Summit! Please contact Jen Kretser at 518.359.7800 x138 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Summits can be geared towards students across a wide age range from middle schools to colleges. Invite schools to send teams of four to five students with accompanying teachers and facility staff. Showcase that the Summit is fun and educational – a meeting of the minds.
Invite principals and superintendents as well! Make sure they know it’s an experience consistent with their school’s goals.
"Of all the projects that I’m involved in and all of the things that I do this is the most inspiring, this is the one I get up in the morning for, because it’s so exciting and so inspiring to see solutions coming out of it. When you look at all of the things and when you stand up at the end of the day and you listen to all of the things that they’ve accomplished, it’s just amazing, it’s the most inspiring thing that I have ever seen. It’s not about climate change, it’s about regenerative change and increasing job opportunities, and green job growth and green education, and that’s what you’re seeing."
- Tammy Morgan, Lake Placid High School Teacher
The Youth Climate Summit has a Steering Committee of students, teachers from high schools and colleges, Wild Center staff, and community members.
We also solicit partners from other organizations and groups. Their resources and participation benefit the Summit while we offer them an opportunity to support the Summit mission.
Establish a Summit budget with external costs:
- Travel and hotel rooms
- Summit swag
- Meals, etc.
Include internal costs (staff time) as well.
Brainstorm and seek outside funding, whether in the form of financial support or material donations.
We use emails and our website to communicate with attending schools.
Leading up to a Summit we’ll send out emails to prospective schools. These include a Save the Date reminder and an announcement that registration is open. We’ll send more emails and documents to schools as they register, and then follow up with post-Summit emails.
Selecting appropriate speakers, for both plenaries and workshops, is key to a successful Summit. They should be dynamic and interactive, able to engage your students. We can’t stress this enough!
The Summit is student-driven, meaning that students have a voice in all decision making and program content. They also have jobs on the day of the Summit: facilitating ice breakers, introducing speakers, greeting schools, and more. Without them, the Summit wouldn't exist!
The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit takes place over two days and is a mix of whole group plenary sessions, hands-on workshops, a poster session, open space, and Climate Action Planning. Plenaries are typically 30 – 40 minutes. Workshops are interactive and 60 – 90 minutes.
To identify your speakers for these, pick out topics and content strands for the Summit. Some of our past strands include: service learning, communicating about climate change, and green jobs.
A Climate Action Plan (CAP) is the culmination of the Summit for the school teams. It is a framework to help school teams organize and implement their own ideas for combating climate change at their schools. They create a CAP that fits their goals and resources before sharing it with the group. Then they take their CAPs back to school with them – hopefully to implement the changes they’ve identified.
We have dedicated website pages for the Summit, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. All Summit information and downloadable forms are on the website. Social media is used to connect students with each other and open a wider net of communications.
We also work to let the community know what’s going on through local and regional coverage of the Summit!
Finding entry points at the Youth Climate Summit for schools and students to share their projects and successes is important. Over the years we've found that two options work best.
Poster sessions are an excellent opportunity for schools to share their progress and projects, especially if they relate to previous CAPs.
Pop-up success stories allow a select number (2-3) of schools to share their triumphs with the whole group in limited Powerpoint presentations.
An Open Space session is the equivalent of a group brainstorm. It provides an opportunity for students to come together around topics they care about that may not be covered in the Summit. While it can feel messy and slightly chaotic, it is very powerful in generating and sharing ideas.
Create a Summit evaluation plan and provide times for the students to fill them out prior to leaving. We evaluate both workshops sessions and the overall Summit. Use these evaluations to help you prepare for the next Summit!
And make sure to find time to debrief with your students, your steering committee, and your staff and partners!
"The Youth Summit has been the foundation of my future. It opened up doorways for travel to places like Costa Rica, landed me as a featured person in a documentary and had me marching with nearly 400,000 individuals in the streets of NYC. When looking for colleges I had sustainability in mind and based my decision on the decisions and offering with regards to climate. Since having taken an interest in the environment and AYCS I have made it my personal goal to go into business, a career I knew I wanted, with a focus in promoting sustainable technologies and their proliferation."
- Cody Barry, Lake Placid High School student
Climate Change can be a serious topic, but there's no reason why you can't bring a little fun into it!
"The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was an incredible experience. Not only was it a lot of fun, but I also learned so much in such a short period of time. I feel wizened about the global situation of climate change, and I was encouraged to learn that we have the capacity to deal with it."
- Samantha Martin, Saranac Lake High School alumna