Students Strike for Climate Action

by John Loeser, Head of School
On Friday afternoon, our Middle School students participated in the Global Climate Strike. Partnering with Loula (8th), Blaise (8th), Taran (8th), Ella (7th), and Aidan (7th), our Science teachers, Simon Alejandrino and Alex Pollard, and our Middle School faculty, led our students to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland to make their voices heard! Global Climate Change is one of the most important issues of our time. At Redwood Day, we promote student leadership, voice, and activism. When students graduate from our school, we know that we are sending confident, courageous leaders into the world who have the skills necessary to advocate for and instill meaningful and impactful change. This is why when we considered the consequences of altering our Middle School academic schedule on Friday afternoon, the answer was simple - head downtown!
While it is critical that we support our students in finding their voices to advocate for progress and change, it is equally important that our curriculum, policies, and practices as a school provide a systemic response to climate change and model for our students the ways in which communities in their lives make a difference in the larger world. Redwood Day, one of the most important communities in our students’ lives, must lead and advocate from within on the issue of climate change if we expect our students to grow into leaders capable of tackling the challenges of our future.
With an emphasis on interdisciplinary connections, the themes of eco-literacy, environmental stewardship, and advocacy weave throughout the grades and content areas. Through our Nature Program, starting in Kindergarten, students learn how to become gardeners. They study the Earth, they problem-solve and learn to recycle/reuse. In Design and Innovation, our 6th graders launch a climate campaign, ideating and designing prototypes to tackle climate change issues. In 6th and 7th Grade English, through the study of dystopian texts, students discuss climate change and environmental degradation. In their study of the U.S. Government in 5th and 8th grades, our students learn how our government functions, how they can uphold their civic responsibility and why it is important to be active citizens in our country and the world. In Lower School Language Arts, Middle School Humanities and Drama and Public Speaking, our students learn how to passionately advocate for a position on a variety of topics. And, of course, in 6th Grade Science our students explore different sources of pollution, how humans cause them, and how we can make a positive change. Additionally, in 7th and 8th grade Science students examine the biological and chemical processes that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and they study ways we generate electricity, considering the pros and cons of each approach.
From a strategic planning perspective, Our Next Reach communicates our commitment to minimizing our carbon footprint and supporting environmental sustainability. In 2017, parent, Heather Hood, Lower School Science Teacher, Rachel Harris, and Director of Equity and Inclusion, Meredith Spencer, led a Green Task Force to examine all of our successes and growth opportunities when it comes to greening our campus and our practices. We regularly consult the task force report to ensure that our efforts are forward-thinking and aligned with our green vision. For example, our newest facility on campus has energy efficient windows, robust thermal insulation, energy-efficient LED lighting throughout, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and drought-tolerant landscaping, with two Bioretention basins to filter water from the roof of the facility and the gymnasium. Last spring, we replaced all of our fluorescent lighting on campus with LED lighting. As we remodel existing bathrooms on campus, we replace all of our toilets and faucets with low-flow options. Additionally, this year, we worked with our food provider to ensure that our lunch program is zero waste.
In our community, we’re doing a lot, and there is still more that we can and should do. We all need to work together to model for our young people the importance of addressing climate change, systemically. As a starting place, each of us can develop our own climate action plan, alter our practices, and help our young people see, through our actions, that we care about their future.