Crossroads News

Students Strive for Environmental Justice

Middle School Green Team educates and inspires their peers to take action.
As Earth Day on April 22 approached, the Middle School Green Team decided to commemorate the occasion by interviewing a notable young climate activist over Zoom. After researching and reaching out to 15 teenagers and young adults from around the world, the team members set up a meeting with 19-year-old Amara Ifeji of Bangor, Maine, who was recently named a National Geographic Young Explorer of 2021. The interview—produced, recorded and edited by the students—became the centerpiece of a lesson plan they later developed for their Middle School classmates.
To prepare for the interview, each of the Green Team members wrote questions for Amara, asking her for advice for budding activists, her recommendations for climate justice education and her predictions about the future of the Earth’s climate, among other topics. In response, Amara encouraged her young interviewers to take on sustainable local initiatives with the help of a strong support system; to connect with the outdoors; and to find hope in the Biden administration’s plans for curbing climate change.
Eighth grader Anya Shah was particularly impressed by Amara’s  answer to her question about growing up in a predominantly white community in Maine. Amara recalled the racism and discrimination she was subject to. “These experiences—while they were not pleasant while I was going through them—I think they made me more resilient to the pushback that I would later receive in my organizing work,” acknowledged Amara.
Anya later reflected, “I appreciated Amara mentioning that … the setbacks and discouragement that she faced ultimately made her a stronger person.”
After the interview, the Green Team created a lesson plan for Middle School Advisory. They included the origins of Earth Day, an explanation of environmental justice, discussion questions and dynamic activities.
In addition, the team led a Middle School-wide assembly on April 23, in which they interviewed Melina Watts, an environmentalist and author. Watts advised her young listeners to “choose active, hardworking optimism” and “ask for more!”
The positivity of both speakers moved seventh grader and Green Team member Lola Goetz, who shared, “It was incredibly inspiring to hear their answers to our questions. I am also proud that we pulled it off and am encouraged to do more. I am excited for what we will accomplish next.”