It doesnt matter where you stand on climate change, its just that you recognize its there and everything around you could be changing. You need to see whats there before its gone, said thenhigh school senior Maggie Forslund, who joined her classmates at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to document what they saw and felt on one day last spring.
Using a $1,000 Connecting People with Nature grant, Stephen Flinn, a new media outreach specialist in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Pacific Region, coordinated the project between the refuge and the Beaverton Arts and Communication Magnet Academy, a suburban Portland grade 612 public school.
It gave students an opportunity to appreciate the pristine natural environment of the refuge that was close to where they live, said Flinn, who also engaged My Story, a local nonprofit that helps young people explore their lives through the lens of a camera.
The project began with a classroom lesson about climate change as it affects the Pacific Northwest. During that classroom visit, about a week before the field trip to the refuge, Flinn discussed nature photography with the students and conducted poetry, writing and drawing activities to bring out the students feelings about climate change.
What We Need to Save
In a YouTube video of the project, then10thgrader Hanna Petrillo said: I feel like its going to get to the point where its going to be too late. And fellow student Tariq Mitri added: Not only does it affect wildlife and animals, it also affects us ... Ill put together a project that just takes into account the natural beauty here and hopefully just expresses what we have and what we need to save.
Tess McBride, a Portland State University graduate student who volunteered to help the students, noticed that they are clearly in touch with their feelings regarding the reality of climate change ... This is an opportunity for them to immerse themselves in a preserved piece of land.
Students in both digital photo and book arts classes spent a day at Tualatin River Refuge, about 15 miles from downtown Portland. They were encouraged by My Storys Christine Cearnal to think about the emotional impact of being on the refuge. Tap into your heart. Experiment with that.
Photography students produced images of silhouetted trees, fungus, tree stumps, the skyline, boggy marshes. Book arts students then used the images to create two and threedimensional objects, such as a diptychsdifferent images placed side by side to form a single piece of art. Images from the refuge were often paired with images of the adjacent city to express thoughts of change, death
Young people dont come at this with the same sense of impossibility as an adult, said Cernal. They are infused with a sense of hope and theyre wonderful problemsolvers, and so we can learn a lot from looking at their work thats created in response to this ... because they often see things that we dont see and might miss. The images were published in a local magazine, drawing the attention of a large new audience.
The book arts projects were displayed at the regional office and Tualatin River Refuge. They are now on display at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. The exhibit is available for display at other Service sites by contacting David Patte, climate change coordinator in the Pacific Region.
Patte, who encourages refuges to reach out to science and art teachers, said the Beaverton teachers were especially open to having partners explore science in a way that brings students out of the classroom. Gail Heymann, a Beaverton teacher, said, I think education is more meaningful if connections are made across subject areas. The information registers and it has its way of coming up at the least expected times with teenagers!
To watch the YouTube video, go to http://bit.ly/nSQ6Q1.
Karen Leggett is a writereditor in the Refuge System Branch of Communications.