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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Representatives from The Wild Center heading to Paris for COP21

World leaders will converge on Paris next week for a United Nations conference on climate change – and representatives from The Wild Center will be there, too, giving the North Country’s voice an international audience.

Jen Kretser, The Wild Center’s director of programs and lead organizer of its annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit, and Gina Fiorile, an intern at the Tupper Lake science center who has been recognized by the White House for her commitment to environmental causes, will both participate in events at the U.N.’s 21st Conference of Parties, also known as COP21.

To learn more, read the press release below!

Adirondack Voices to Influence International Climate Talks

COP21 Events

The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit is going to COP21 and you're invited!

In Paris, the international community will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. A number of events are taking place alonside the conference. The Wild Center and our Youth Summit model will be represented at two centered on youth engagement and climate change. As both will be livestreamed, you are welcome to join us.

Monday, November 30, 2015, at 7:15 a.m. EST (1:15 p.m. local time in Paris)

Gina Fiorile, a White House Champion of Change and UN Youth Delegate, will be speaking at an event hosted by the U.S. Center. She will be featured on a panel highlighting youth engagement with climate change. Through videos, Q&A's, and showcasing student efforts, the panel will discuss diverse youth initiatives and how young people are leaders on climate change across the world.

Thursday, December 3, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. EST (3:00 p.m. local time in Paris)

Jennifer Kretser, The Wild Center's Director of Programs, and Gina Fiorile, a White House Champion of Change and UN Youth Delegate, will speak at an event at Universcience, a Paris science museum. They will discuss The Wild Center's work with Youth Climate Summits as part of a broader discussion on youth engagement programs with climate change. Other speakers will include youth representing the Michigan Science Center (USA), Mundo Nuevo (Argentina), Heureka (Finland), the Durban Science Center (South Africa), and the NCSM (India). Experts on COP21 will finish the event by discussing the framework of the convention and synthesizing it for the audience.

Each event will appear on the link below as it begins.

Watch the Live Stream on

COP21: Gina Fiorile

Gina Fiorile is a Sophomore Environmental Studies major, Aiken Scholar, and member of the Board of Directors at The University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Her interest in climate change began while helping to plan the annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. She helped create the first annual Vermont Youth Climate Summit, held at the University of Vermont in December 2014.  

Gina was a featured student in the PBS documentary - The Resilient Ones: A Generation Takes on Climate Change - that follows youth engagement in climate change mitigation efforts. She was awarded an Environmental Merit award from the Environmental Protection Agency and was recently honored at The White House as a Champion of Change for Climate Education and Literacy.

COP21: Shannon Bartholomew

Shannon Bartholomew teaches biology at Saranac Lake High School where she also serves as advisor to the school’s Environmental Club. She received her BSc from SUNY Potsdam in 1994 and returned to earn her MST in Biology in 2007. In addition to her background in science education, she also worked in the biotechnology sector for 10 years, earning her graduate certificate in Biotechnology Management in 2003. Shannon soon discovered her passion for educating students in biological sciences and began teaching in 2008. Since then, her work has grown to encompass climate change science and empowering youth leaders to create solutions.

She is a core team member of the Steering Committee of the annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit. She is also a founding member of the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative, a coalition dedicated to rebuilding a healthy food system in Adirondack schools by connecting classrooms, cafeterias, communities, and local farms. She is honored to be included in Climate Generation’s contingent to COP21.

Finland Youth Climate Summit 2015

While America celebrated on Thanksgiving, youth gathered in Finland for the 4th Finland Youth Climate Summit.  Brought together at Heureka, the Finnish Science Center, they learned about climate change and prepared to take action in their communities. This year The Wild Center joined them! Jen Kretser, The Wild Center's Director of Programs, and Gina Fiorile, an intern and an integral part of the Youth Climate Summit effort, traveled to Finland to present both a plenary and a teacher workshop.

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 then 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, 2015.  The  event celebrates Americans who are doing extraordinary work to enhance climate education and literacy in classrooms and communities across the country.   

To learn more about Gina and her accomplishments, see the press release linked to below.

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

Champions of Change

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 won Best Feature in the 2015 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.

Watch the film here.

Learn more about Summits here

2015 Summitk

The 2015 Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was held on November 12th & 13th and reached over 200 students at 35 schools. The materials and details can be found here. Please use this page and our Facebook page as a way of keeping in touch.

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.