On Aug. 29, 37 youth from North Carolina will begin the Youth Engaging in the Science of Resilience (YES-Resilience) Teen Climate Ambassadors program hosted by the UNC Institute for the Environment’s Center for Public Engagement with Science and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS). This yearlong program, originally planned for an in-person launch in June 2020, will begin online with the future option of a hybrid in-person/online model if public health guidelines allow.
Program participants are high school students from urban and rural communities across 11 North Carolina counties, seven of which are classified as rural by the NC Rural Center. Twenty participants are affiliated with the NCMNS in Raleigh and 17 are affiliated with the NCMNS in Whiteville, NC.
“We hope our emphasis on engaging a range of youth, from urban and rural areas and representing varied racial and ethnic groups, will ultimately help us better understand how to engage society more broadly in promoting community resilience to climate change,” says Kathleen Gray, lead principal investigator for the project and director of the Center for Public Engagement with Science.
Although the original program was scheduled to include place-based activities at both the Raleigh and Whiteville NCMNS locations, the online format allows for more participants and access to speakers and resources that may not have been available in-person. Participants will still explore climate change in their local communities and investigate climate mitigation and adaptation strategies throughout the program.
The program starts Saturday with a virtual orientation for students and parents in the morning, followed by an introduction to climate change and resilience through interactive sessions and a science café style talk with Rebecca Ward, the interim associate director and assistant state climatologist in the State Climate Office of NC.
There will be three half-day academies per semester and monthly check-in sessions to support youth through the process of creating and implementing resilience-focused action projects in their communities.
The Sept. 12 academy will focus on climate change and agriculture with an emphasis on building a resilient food system. The Oct. 17 academy will invite youth to examine recent flooding events and evaluate existing and future solutions that promote resilient waterways. This Oct. event also will introduce youth to the flood resilience study being led by the Institute. The program will conclude in June 2021with an in-person, multi-day summer institute at each museum location, though staff are prepared to lead a virtual institute, if in-person gatherings are still limited by public health guidelines.
This program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program.
For more information on the YES-Resilience Program, visit: https://ie.unc.edu/yes-resilience/
Emily Williams, Director of Community and University Relations at the UNC Institute for the Environment; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Pishney, Head of Communications at NC Museum of Natural Sciences; email@example.com