What is ClimateSpeak?

ClimateSpeak was started concieved in 2017 by Sally Neas when she was a masters in Community Development. She was studying how to effectively engage youth around climate action. She created a list of best practices for youth engagement around climate change as a part of her thesis. Then, hungry to put these practices in place, she started working with educational organizations to design climate engagement curriculum. She began piloting this curriculum in 2018 with high school environmental science classes at Oxbow School in Napa, CA and the Watsonville Wetlands Watch in Watsonville, CA, where she worked with an afterschool high school program. She has plans to create more curriculum to include standards-aligned high school English and social studies curriculum.

A key aspect of curriculum is using digital storytelling to enrich youth learning about climate change. We are creating a catalog of youth stories about climate change, which you can view here on our website or on our YouTube channel ClimateSpeak.

Why climate education?

Youth need to know about climate change.

Youth of today will have to face climate change in a way that no other generation has. As the impacts of climate change become more present, and the need to decarbonize our lives and economies becomes more urgent, it will be the issue that defines a generation. And yet, youth are drastically undereducated on the subject. Multiple studies have shown that youth have limited factual and even worst conceptual knowledge of climate change. And, most of what they do know about climate change has to do with the problems of climate change, not the solutions. As a result, more than 2/3 of youth say that they want more education about climate change*, and climate education has been shown to leave youth disempowered on the subject.

We are building a new kind of education.

ClimateSpeak is addressing that by creating, implementing and assessing climate change curriculum that is empowering and centered around the solutions to, and not just problems of, climate change. Our curriculum is based on a review of the most current and substanial scientific data about what works in engaging youth with the subject of climate change. Our curriculum is currently being used in high school environmental science classes and afterschool programs, and we are working on creating standards-aligned English curriculum for high school students.

Why storytelling?

Research on climate education shows that knowledge and understanding of climate science alone is not enough to inspire people to engage with the issue and take action. Instead, engagement and action have much more to do with how people make meaning out of climate science. That has to do with how a person thinks about climate change– their own story about it– as well as how they see themselves within this larger story.

A key part of our curriculum is working with students to produce digital stories about climate change. These stories allow youth to grapple with the many complex issues of climate change, and create their own narratives about it. This helps students integrate and synthesize the knowledge of climate change while relating it to their own lives.  Also, as an expressive arts modality, digital storytelling allows students to express the very real negative emotions associated with climate change, such as fear, anger and despair. By articulating their own story about climate change, youth engage with the issue at a deeper level and feel inspired and empowered to take action.

We give youth a voice in the conversation.

Part of the beauty of digital stories is that they are easy to share with others. After the youth produce their stories, they create their own engagement campaigns. This includes sharing the stories digitally, through social media, directing people to where they are housed on our website or YouTube, or emailing them out. They also share them through live screening events, where youth screen their videos in front of friends, family and community members, and then facilitate a conversation about climate impact and actions in their community.

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