Written by Shelli-Kae Foster, Deb Groebner, and Taylor Templer
YES! launched its first virtual Fall Summit on September 30th with over 70 students and teachers in attendance. The theme for this year was “Climate Change in Minnesota.” The virtual event included numerous interactive components such as polls, charades, and guessing games to keep participants engaged.
Sydney Bauer, a recent Biology and Sustainability graduate from the University of Minnesota Morris, kicked the morning off with a getting to know you activity where students were asked questions to discover their purpose. She asked questions like: “What is important to you?”, “Why is it important?”, “How do you want to grow?”, “How do you want your community to grow?”, and “How do these things connect to YES?” After students had time to reflect on those questions Sydney asked them to keep their responses and revisit them next year to see if they’ve changed or how they’ve grown.
During Climate Change in Minnesota: How we know, what we know and what you can do, University of Minnesota climate scientist Dr. Heidi Roop engaged students with personal stories and pictures from expeditions in Greenland and Antarctica, where her team collected deep ice cores to study changes in Earth’s climate over the last 800,000 years by analyzing the CO2 levels trapped inside the ice bubbles. Heidi discussed the impacts of climate change in Minnesota, emphasizing how important it is for individuals and communities to take action now to prevent future climate impacts and to adapt to the changes we’re experiencing and anticipating.
Luke Greiner from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development led the Put Your Passion and Talents to Work session where he told students to ask themselves “What am I going to be?” and not “Where am I going?” He encouraged students to dive in and try to figure out what they are good at, what they like to do, what type of lifestyle they want, and how they plan to get there. Luke also highlighted environmental careers in Minnesota and emphasized that extracurricular activities like YES! will help them development valuable skills such as problem solving, integrity, and communications that employers are looking for in top candidates. In conclusion, Luke emphasized that “Life is only awesome if you make it happen, so get to it!”
Two experts from Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) joined us to provide insight and resources for students during the Zoom into Clean Energy session. Jacob Selseth, West Central Coordinator provided insight into how energy is generated and explained how renewable technologies such as wind and solar are beneficial to us by reducing greenhouse gas emissions along with being more efficient which leads to saving us money. Next, Peter Lindstrom, Public Sector and Community Engagement Manager told participants that now is a great time for schools to install solar. CERTs has a toolkit designed just for schools to help them determine the sight, seek funding, and to engage students and the community in the process. Several schools reached out to Peter after the summit to gather more information for their school about solar opportunities.
Jason Rodney from Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy and YEA! MN student activist, Maya Hidalgo, started the Climate Change is Here session off with a game of charades that had a climate change theme. Jason then shared information on climate change in Minnesota such as the sources of greenhouse gases and what projects students can do at their school or in their community that will help combat climate change, including planting native prairie plants, installing renewable energy, or composting food waste. Maya taught students about climate impacts and social injustice such as how the decreased wild rice harvest affects indigenous populations’ cultural practices and way of life.
Overall, the virtual Fall Summit was a success! Students learned about themselves, the changing climate in Minnesota, and how they can make an impact. We want to thank everyone who joined us virtually this year!
Major support for YES! comes from LYFT Career Pathways, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), and Waste Management. Thank you!