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Celebrating Earth Month by Highlighting Youth Actions

April 21, 2023

Celebrating Earth Month by Highlighting Youth Actions


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By Jen Fischer

Earth Month and Earth Day provide opportunities for students to engage more deeply with environmental education and the realities of climate change. However, many educators may be concerned about student engagement in these areas given the high rates of anxiety and depression young people across the United States are experiencing today.

In September 2021, Nature published a landmark survey about young people’s climate anxiety. The study revealed that 45 percent of the participants reported feelings about climate change affecting their daily lives, and 65 percent of the participants agreed with the statement that governments are failing young people with their responses (or lack thereof) to climate change.

This data can feel daunting and points to serious concerns regarding the ways that climate change and environmental education are integrated into classroom learning. Such educational learning connects directly with science and social studies and should be a crucial component of student learning, so thoughtful approaches are essential.

One key tool for positive engagement around this topic is to highlight youth around the world who are actively engaged in climate action. We know that when students feel helpless, their anxiety and depression can increase; but if students feel empowered, educators can work with them to combat anxiety and depression while teaching important topics, such as climate change.

Journeys in Film knows that film can be a powerful tool to engage students; film resources and activities that highlight student action can increase student interest and engagement in the classroom. 

climate emergencies

“Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops,” a series of five short films (nine-15 minutes in length) narrated by Richard Gere, highlights the importance of feedback loops to climate change, particularly the possibility of reversing its negative effects. Journeys in Film created a lesson plan for each of these films. Lesson 5 in the series is focused on regreening and highlights youth activists around the world. Bringing those activists into the high school social studies classroom through these materials will engage and inspire students. This resource may work in some eighth-grade classrooms as well. You can also watch our on-demand webinar on teaching this film series.

The documentary film River of Gold chronicles illegal gold mining along the Amazon River and the impact of this human action on Peru’s Amazon rainforest. Lesson 8 is titled “Faces of Activism” and is an intersectional environmental science/social studies lesson.

Plus, Journeys in Film’s latest free resource is a curriculum guide for the award-winning documentary Youth v Gov, which follows 21 young Americans suing the world’s most powerful government to protect their constitutional rights to a stable climate.

From Share My Lesson, we also recommend the Threshold of Change, which is a lesson plan for high school students from the Global Oneness Project. The lesson plan uses the short film Santa Cruz del Islote to explore the challenges facing the community featured in the film because of climate change and to then consider challenges facing their own communities.

Film is a powerful tool. Youth action is a powerful tool. Together, they can unlock student interest and engage students around the topics that are important to them, such as climate change.

Let us know what resources you’re using in the classroom to teach climate.  

Jen Fischer

About the Author

Jen Fischer is a writer, film producer and teaching artist whose work focuses on highlighting shared human experiences to cultivate empathy and understanding. Her films have screened across the United States and abroad and have been featured by NBCLatino, ABC, Univision, Fusion, NBCBLK, Vice News, etc. with her film “THE wHOLE” premiering at Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary Human Rights Conference. Her educational and/or film writing has been featured by Edutopia, Video Librarian, Ms. Magazine, Parents Magazine and others. She is the Director of Programs and Outreach for Journeys In Film. She has developed curriculum for LA’s BEST, the Metta Center for Nonviolence and in conjunction with the Outreach Center for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, where she received her M.A. She holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and enjoys playing the piano and creating unique educational experiences for her two children.

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Celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day

This Earth Day and Arbor Day, use these engaging preK-12 lesson plans, activities and resources to celebrate and teach your students how they can take action in their community to create a healthier planet.

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Journeys in Film
The mission of Journeys in Film is to use the storytelling power of film to help educate our next generation with a richer understanding of the diverse and complex world in which we live. Our goal is to help students mitigate existing attitudes of cultural bias and racism, cultivate human empathy... See More

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