Walking Mountains creates a new opportunity for high school students to engage in climate action | VailDaily.com

Walking Mountains creates a new opportunity for high school students to engage in climate action

The Environmental Leadership Council kicks off next Wednesday after school

The Walking Mountains Environmental Leadership Council gives local high school students the opportunity to engage in climate action and solutions.
Walking Mountains/Courtesy Photo

Finding and implementing solutions for climate change is going require collaborative action, which is why Walking Mountains Science Center is helping high school students become leaders in climate action with its Environmental Leadership Council.

“Young people have so much opportunity ahead of them in terms of making decisions that are really going to shape our planet in the future,” said Carrie Anderson, who leads the council and is the environmental leadership coordinator at Walking Mountains. “And as unfair as it is to say that our future is resting on their shoulders, the reality is that our future is going to be resting on their shoulders.”

Anderson started the council at Walking Mountains last year with the help of her colleague, Renata Araujo, who serves as the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement coordinator at Walking Mountain to fill a community need to high school students.

“There’s definitely a lot of amazing foundations that are doing work toward engaging high school kids and helping them plan for their futures and helping them engage in the ski industry,” Anderson said. “We wanted to fill the void of students taking action for the environment and for the climate and sustainability.”

Following their first semester as a program, the council took a brief hiatus through last summer and fall, but it is returning next week with a new focus.

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“We’re hoping to give it a little bit more of a climate focus, which is a little bit more of what we’re focused on in the sustainability department at Walking Mountains,” said Will Barror, who is also helping to lead the program and serves as the sustainability graduate fellow at Walking Mountains. “Hopefully, that will guide the students in making decisions about what they’re interested in working on throughout the year.”

As a specific guide, Barror plans to use the Eagle County Climate Action Plan as a starting point for students to create their goals, projects and action ideas. The Climate Action Plan has goals for the county around waste diversion, energy usage, transportation as well as education and outreach. The latter of which, this council happens to fall under.

“It’s really about getting local champions, everyday folks — whether you’re a student, a business or just a community member — on board with climate action, learning that we have a Climate Action Plan in Eagle County, and learning basic, low-hanging fruit steps that you can take toward meeting county goals,” Barror said.

High school students from the Environmental Leadership Council work on a restoration project at the Eagle River Preserve in Edwards.
Walking Mountains/Courtesy photo

While the council will be student-driven — in that students will be able to determine the direction of the council and the projects it pursues — Walking Mountains staff will help connect students with local environmental experts, leaders and resources to help them make their ideas and projects a reality. The council will also go on field trips and have the opportunity to create community service events.

Anderson and Barror have three main goals for the group this semester. First, that it be a fun way for students to interact with their peers and explore climate action. Second, that it help students develop leadership skills and give them the opportunity to put them into action. And third, that the students are able to develop a project they are passionate about and that has a positive impact not only on the climate, but for the community as well.

“A very tiny side goal is that young people recognize that adults and folks want to support them in these measures and it’s not a lost cause for older folks to get on the band wagon with the passion and drive that these young people have,” Anderson said.

By honing in on a focus this semester, Barror and Anderson also see opportunities for certain synergies with Walking Mountains as a whole. This includes making progress on the Climate Action Plan as well as engaging students in its other sustainability programs and events, such as its upcoming Climate Week following Earth Day this spring.

Building passions young

Last year the council planned and executed a litter pickup at Chambers Park in Eagle. The group pulled nine garbage bags from the environment at the event.
Walking Mountains/Courtesy Photo

Last year, the council was particularly interested in waste diversion — specifically in the recycling programs at the local high schools — and as the semester wore on, the group was able to plan and execute a litter pickup event in Eagle. At the event, the group was able to pull nine garbage bags of waste from the environment that were then disposed of properly.

“The students started their semester with having that passion and then they built the skills that they needed to do something awesome and give back to our local community,” Anderson said.

Already this year, the council has seen double the amount of interest in the council from high school students, with over 30 students already signed up, which speaks to the passion that students have about climate change and action.

Anderson said that in the first session of the council, she was impressed by the passion the students had and their drive to want to step up and do something.

“I think it’s so important to engage high schools kids because the world is at their doorstep, and by creating habits and creating passions and helping them find they own passion in that way can really have a big exponential impact beyond just ourselves,” Anderson said.

And in helping them build leadership skills, the goal is that these students will become stewards for the environment.

“To be a leader, you need to take action, whether it’s action toward following the example of somebody else, or the action of helping others to follow you,” Anderson said. “Our hope is that these students will be leaders in their schools, in their communities and in their families — teaching what they learn and helping people make decisions that are promoting helping our climate instead of decisions that are a detriment to our climate.”

If you go…

Who: The Environmental Leadership Council is open to any and all high school students in Eagle County.

When: The first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 12 from 3:45 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: At both Battle Mountain High School and Eagle Valley High School. The two locations will also be on a Zoom call so that all the students will be able to meet together.

The group plans to meet every other week, but the exact dates and times will be determined at the first meeting.

To register, visit: forms.gle/sTDJxqksMhJXd9367

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