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Justin Bates, ’07 starts his talk on Global Warming in the Berkshires at Mt. Greylock High School

Thursday marked the second day of the Williams regional outreach program. Five Ephs spoke to six periods of classes and one period of lunch at Mt. Greylock High School, reaching about 250 students and inspiring the creation of an environmental club at the school. The talk was based on the slide show developed over our Winter Study class on student activism with professor Singham. The show is intended to bring up some scary and local possible effects of climate change and then turn the focus to the student climate action movement. The goal is to inspire students to become leader and motivate their schools and communities to reduce energy use, seek alternative energy sources and raise awareness on the issue.


Thursday marked the second day of the Williams regional outreach program. Five Ephs spoke to six periods of classes and one period of lunch at Mt. Greylock High School, reaching about 250 students and inspiring the creation of an environmental club at the school. The talk was based on the slide show developed over our Winter Study class on student activism with professor Singham. The show is intended to bring up some scary and local possible effects of climate change and then turn the focus to the student climate action movement. The goal is to inspire students to become leader and motivate their schools and communities to reduce energy use, seek alternative energy sources and raise awareness on the issue.

When we arrived at the school, we had contact with a few teachers through email and a presentation that none of them had seen. By the time we left, the students had already created an environmental club, had their first important discussions on what they wanted to work on and we had over 30 email addresses to add to our contact lists.

The class periods before lunch were led by Williams students giving the slide show presentation for the first time, offering them a valuable, ‘trial by fire’ learning experience into speaking to groups of students in an engaging manner. The following lunch discussion involved 10 students who were interested learning whether it was possible to motivate students, even Mt. Greylock students, to act on climate change. We assured these potential leaders that a very wide range of people can become invested in climate change, but they must be approached on their own terms. Not everyone will come to a meeting and table to get signatures on a petition. Rather, students interested in engineering should be engaged in installing solar panels or producing bio-diesel and students who have more talent at art or theatre can use their skills to raise awareness and reach people in a different way.

In talking to this group of students I sensed it was very important to emphasize the group aspect of climate action, and really activism in general. Acting as individuals can be extremely frustrating, and pleas to the student body as a whole are rarely effective (if only everyone did this one small thing, then…). Instead, cultivating a group with a strong sense of membership and momentum, while being inclusive and fun is the best way to expand the scope and effectiveness of student actions.

By the time we left after the last bell our table at the front was crowded by dozens of students signing up their email address and asking lots of good questions. Maybe the most rewarding part for me was giving away the last two DO IT IN THE DARK stickers. We had given them out as prizes for answering questions correctly throughout the day and they were a hot item, probably because of their scandalous nature. I thought the best way to give them out was based on a quick question: “Who is going to do the best climate action in the next month?” People’s hands jumped up to say things like “convince my family to switch to CFL bulbs”, “write a letter to the editor of the newspaper”, and “sign my school up for Focus the Nation.” I couldn’t have been more pleased by the energy.

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