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Swigert’s Climate Activism Team, a model for others, ends another successful year!

(Above: Collage made from Earth Day sticker entries from Swigert’s Climate Activism Team)

Since it began in 2018, Swigert International’s Climate Activism Team (CAT) has steadily increased its ambitions and activities. Its mission, vision and words to work by:

Vision – What we want to see happen

  • Cleaner school and community
  • Teach the community about recycling, compost and trash
  • Reduce school waste
  • Find green solutions
  • Raising awareness
  • Inspiring others to take action

 Mission – How we will get there

  • Identify problems in our school and community
  • Come up with solutions to make our school and community more green
  • Spread awareness around climate change issues

The CAT’s motto:

The earth is my home

I promise to keep it healthy and beautiful,

I will love the land, the air

The water and all living creatures,

I will be a defender of my planet

United with friends, I will save the earth.

The CAT’s origins and activities

When I joined the staff of Swigert International School in 2017 as the gifted and talented coordinator, I was surprised to find no organized student group working on climate change issues. It seemed to be a natural for an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, with its focus on global citizenship and students being agents of change.

I have been interested in sustainability issues since I was a teen attending Eco Cycle meetings with my father, the Energy Manager for the St. Vrain Valley School District for much of my childhood. And I had just come from a long stint at Denver Language School which had a robust Green Team. Starting a sustainability team became a goal.

Robin Bresnahan, Swigert’s GT coordinator and teacher leader of student-led Climate Activism Team.

From the start, our principal, Shelby Dennis, was totally supportive. Brian Weber of the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities has also been a staunch supporter. The team includes Swigert and three other schools – both McAuliffe International and McAuliffe Manual middle schools and Northfield High School. Other Central Park schools with climate teams include Denver Green School – Northfield, Westerly Creek ES and Willow ES.

During the Covid pandemic, the team had a strong partnership with Conservation Colorado and students were engaged in creating videos and reaching out to lawmakers in an effort to encourage them to pass “Climate Bills” SB-200 and HB -1266 in 2021.

It has been fun to watch the team evolve over the years as students move on and new students join the team. The work is student-led, allowing us teachers to guide the students and see where their ideas take them.

Highlights of 2022-23

Currently the team is led by me, 5th grade teacher Kayla Conarro and IB Coordinator Caroline Dane. This year the team is composed of about a dozen second through fifth grade students who are deeply interested in climate change and sustainability. They meet twice a month and are highly active. Some highlights:

  • This year the students focused on organizing monthly challenges for the school community, making connections with other school Green Teams, building a website, participating in local clean-ups, hosting an Earth Week Challenge and educating themselves and the school community on climate change issues and the small steps we can take to combat them.
  • Other work included a bake sale in the fall to raise money for programming for the year. Much of the proceeds were spent on sustainable prizes for the team’s monthly challenges, like reusable straws and snack containers. Monthly challenges focused on things like saving electricity by turning off lights and electronics when not in use, reducing one’s phantom load (devices that consume energy even when turned off), utilizing reusable containers, planting trees, and reducing waste.
  • The team also worked hard to create a lot of engagement around climate change for Earth week (April 16-22). You can see their Earth Week Challenge for more information.
  • One new thing that students spearheaded for Earth Week was to invite all students in the school to create an Earth Awareness Sticker. Winning designs were printed as stickers to generate awareness and funding for future projects.
  • The team also worked to build a Student CAT Website. They partnered with the Westerly Creek Green Team in two Creek to Lake Clean-ups. The team learned a little bit about the DPS Climate Team and would like to see how they may work together in the future.
  • The team partnered with some former members who now attend the Denver Green School-Northfield MS and have started their own Green Team. The two teams got together monthly starting in January to discuss ways to collaborate and to further educate themselves and their communities.
Next year the team plans to explore:
  • Housing a battery recycling program,
  • Hosting a fun run to raise money,
  • Going on field trips to places like the Boulder Recycling Plant and CU Spur (Summer Program for Undergraduate Research),
  • Continuing to partner with other sustainability teams,
  • Adding components to the website like garden recipes and tips for sustainable living.

One of our members, Zoe Townsend, was inspired by Steve Ritz, a Bronx, NY teacher, speaker and urban gardener extraordinaire. The team invited him to speak to our 4th and 5th grade students. He has inspired our team to investigate hydroponic gardens at our school.

I am very proud of this team and their passion for combating climate change. We look forward to advancing the work in the 2023-24 school year.

(Editor’s note: Go to the Nature Conservancy’s site for information on climate change and its challenges. Check out the Aspen Institute’s site for more information on what you can do to support climate change activities in schools.)

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