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. The annual Summit, with particpants from area high schools, colleges and universities, now impacts schools with more than 25,000 students each year.

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

The Youth Summit concept went global during a cultural exchange between the Center and Heureka Science Center outside Helsinki, FInland. The Finns modeled their Summit on The Wild Center version, even down to the t-shirt design. The language was different, but the message was the same. 

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2015 Summitk

The 2015 Adirondack Youth Climate Summit will be on November 12th & 13th. Registration is now open. Please use this and our Facebook page as a way of keeping in touch.

Host Your Own Youth Climate Summit

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.

Watch this short video about the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit.

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.  


Youth Climate Summit Toolkitk

You can organize a Youth Summit. We give you the tools, absolutely free, so that your organization can replicate our success, without reinventing the wheel.

The Resilient Ones - A New Film

The Wild Center is featured in a film from Mountain Lake PBS and Bright Blue EcoMedia.  The partners have teamed up for a moving film that looks at the predicted effects of climate change in the Adirondacks, and at the next generation of visionaries working to adjust to a changing planet. The Resilient Ones has just won Best Feature in the Colorado Environmental Film Festival

In the film, three high school students take viewers on a journey through the region to meet local leaders and innovators as they search for both short-term adaptive strategies to extreme weather and long-term solutions to reducing carbon emissions. The students, Cody Bary, Erin Weaver, and Gina Fioreli gather experience and information as they prepare for and host The Wild Center's 2013 Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. 

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 conducting carbon audits to provide baseline data for energy programs.  

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Road to the White House

One person’s idea can impact the world. That thought reveals itself every day. One person’s idea created a pivotal program at the Center that sent two people to the White House.  Gina Fiorile, an alumna of Saranac Lake High School and freshman at the University of Vermont, and Wild Center Director of Programs, Jen Kretser, joined other “Champions of Change for Climate Education and Literacy” at the White House on Monday, February 9th.  The  event celebrates Americans who are doing extraordinary work to enhance climate education and literacy in classrooms and communities across the country.   

Gina is being recognized as a “Champion of Change for Climate Education and Literacy” for her passion for the environment that developed in high school, where she took a leadership role in many projects related to waste reduction, environmental education, and climate-change mitigation.  Since freshman year, she was instrumental in planning The Wild Center’s annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit, which has now been adopted in locations across the country as a model for environmental education.  She was a featured student in a recent PBS documentary The Resilient Ones: A Generation Takes on Climate Change that followed the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit and its efforts to reduce the effects of climate change in the Adirondack Park.  She represents the many young people who are committed to climate action and the protection of our future environment. Gina is still involved in the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit, leading the University of Vermont team during their inaugural involvement and inspiring a Vermont Summit shortly afterwards. 

Jen Kretser and GIna Fiorile with Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology & Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy


Watch What You Missedk

Speakers at the Summit provide the students with the information and tools they need to act upon their return. Teams also have the chance to make their own videos about their experience to share. 

Finland Live 2013

The Finnish Summit was modeled on The Wild Center version, and so were the T-Shirts worn in Helsinki. The message was the same, the language was different.

In 2013 the Summit in Finland and in the Adirondacks happened on the same days, and students had the chance to connect live.

Message to Finland

This is a video message sent from Adirondack Summiteers to the 2013 Summit held at Heureka Science Center outside Helsinki, Finland. The Finnish Summit was modeled on the Adirondack Summit model through an exchange between The Wild Center and Heureka.

Youth Summit on the Road

A scene from the Lake Placid High School when the Lake Placid Green team brought a taste of the Summit to their school.

See PBS Clip of Adirondack Youth Action

Mountain Lake PBS recently aired a story about local students cutting costs for their schools by going green. Their inspiration? The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit!