Climate change is a problem. And the ones who will be most affected by climate change are given a disproportionately smaller voice – today’s youth.

 

When Vanessa, Sam, Kathy and I were huddled in a café brainstorming the Low Carbon Schools Pilot Program (LCSPP) last year, we wanted to help schools reduce carbon emissions by targeting the administration because they can make the big changes like switching to LED’s, putting policies in place, installing solar panels etc. But, engaging young people was the missing ingredient for our program. A few weeks later, as if the low carbon school gods were answering our prayers, we stumbled across Millennium Kids – a youth led organisation that empowers young people to make tangible environmental solutions in their community. After a coffee with Cat, the CEO of Millennium Kids, we partnered and here we are.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been shadowing Cat in full day MK workshops at the schools participating in our LCSPP. So far, we’ve gone to seven different schools, and worked with kids aged 8 to 13.

And let me just say this:

Seeing kids become empowered to take action in their community has been the most inspiring experience of my life.

Sure, I knew working with kids could be inspiring, and they’d come up with some cute things. But boy did I underestimate just how smart and capable these young people are. I’d like to share a few observations I’ve made from my research and the workshops so far:

 

Kids Have a Right to Have A Say About Climate Change

In 1989, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stated 54 articles that outlined the rights of the child. Article 12 in particular, noted the right of children to have a say:

Capture

Article 12 in laymen terms via UNICEF

Children will be the ones inheriting this carbon bloated Earth, and they actually have a right to be heard. Article 12 states that they have a right to have say about what affects them. By extension, I think it should go even a step further, kids not only have a right to have a say, they have a right to be given the opportunity to take action.

 

Kids Care About Issues in their Community – CO2 Emissions Tops the List

At the beginning of each Millennium Kids workshop, one of the first steps is asking the kids what they like and don’t like about their community. This is a common inquiry-based or action learning approach. Interestingly, the kids come up with some of the same likes and dislikes time and again:

LikesDislikes
Pollution and cutting down trees come up in one form or another for nearly every kid. They know it’s bad, and they don’t like it. They may not understand the ‘carbon’ link right away, but by the end of the day, they’ve realised a common theme for some of the things they don’t like and that they want to change – carbon. And, of course no kid likes being yelled at or bullied. At one school, the “angry lollipop man” down the road popped up on everyone’s list.

 

Kids Are Capable of Creating Change… And Have Great Ideas

Kids actually really know how to create a Low Carbon School. They also come up with brilliant ideas and I’m constantly surprised at how good their ideas are. I would have thought most of them would be too far-fetched or unrealistic but the ideas they have are the perfect combination of out-of-the-box, creative, achievable and effective. The fact that these kids can come up with solutions that us adults spend months talking about is impressive. They know what needs to be done and they can create solid plans to make it happen.

Winterfold-Kid-Drawing-New

Artwork by a student at Winterfold Primary School

 

Where will you be in 50 years? Where will kids be? Here. They are not only the future, they are the present. They are the diamonds of innovation in the bureaucratized adult rough. If we learn to better harness the passion, creativity and capability of young people, I imagine we’ll achieve our Sustainable Development Goals quicker and with more innovation than we imagined possible.

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll be finishing up workshops with the remaining schools in the Low Carbon Schools Pilot Program. Stay posted – I can’t wait to share with you all of the marvelous projects the kids create.

Save the date
We are officially launching the Low Carbon Schools Pilot Program on Thursday, July 21. It’ll be a fun and inspiring night with inspiring change-makers of all ages!

About The Author:

Portia is a postgraduate researcher at Curtin University currently doing a Masters of Philosophy (soon to be PhD) looking at the Millennium Kids process and how kids can be more involved in school carbon reduction. She is also the Community Engagement Lead at SimplyCarbon and has experience working in the start-up scene and the sustainability sector.