Photo: Youth Climate Walkout at Roseville Area High School
FEATURE STORY: Did you know on March 25th, 2022 as part of the Global Climate Strike, approximately 600 students conducted a "Climate Walkout" at Roseville Area High school?! Supported by representatives of their district and the city of Roseville they marched from their school to city hall, where they gave speeches and shared their demands, one of which was for the district to join the MN GreenStep Schools program. Read the full interview with a member of the youth leadership group.
In this month’s resources update we highlight environmental education resources including climate action and energy savings at schools.
In our program news section, learn how joining MN GreenStep Schools can help districts and schools support climate action, hear about new climate best practice content in progress, and meet our current intern, Rodrica Cogle.
Photo: Youth Climate Walkout, March 25th, 2022 Students walk from Roseville Area High School to Roseville City Hall
Climate Walkout at Roseville Area High School
Did you know on March 25th, 2022 as part of the Global Climate Strike, approximately 600 students conducted a "Climate Walkout" at Roseville Area High school?! Supported by representatives of their district and the city of Roseville they marched from their school to city hall, where they gave speeches and shared their demands, one of which was for the district to join the MN GreenStep Schools program.
MN GreenStep Schools interviewed Holly Swiglo who spoke on behalf of the student group, RAHS Progressives, about the event, its goals, lessons learned, and advice for other youth organizers.
Photo: Climate Walkout Leaders give speeches at City Hall. From left to right: Isla, Holly, Curran, Tara, Sam. Not pictured: Niamh and Rose
MN GreenStep Schools: On Friday, March 25th, 2022, your group, RAHS (Roseville Area High School) Progressives, led a climate walkout as part of the global school climate strike day. Please describe the event for our readers.
Holly: Students began to walk out of school and gather outside the RAHS main entrance at around 12:00 pm. They then walked from RAHS to the Roseville City Hall, about 15 minutes away, where they gathered for about 30 minutes (12:30-1:00 pm) to hear speeches by RAHS Progressives members. Students then walked back to RAHS and returned to class. About 600 students walked out, and many officials and other adults came to attend the walkout. Some school officials and school board members even walked with the students from RAHS to City Hall.
MN GreenStep Schools: What were the goals of the climate walk out? What changes do you hope to see?
Holly: As part of the walkout, we created a list of actions that we want to see our city and school take to combat climate change. The goal of the walkout was to build momentum for achieving the items on our list by demonstrating student support for them. Our list includes the following:
City of Roseville declare a climate emergency
Roseville Area High School get solar panels (through the new SolarRewards For Schools grant program)
Roseville Area Schools join the MN GreenStep Schools Program
Organic waste disposal at RAHS (which means either composting food waste or using it to feed farm animals)
Community gardens at Roseville Area Schools
City of Roseville to switch to organized trash hauling (where each trash hauler is assigned to collect trash from a specific area)
We are continuing to work to make these goals a reality.
Overall, we hope that the walkout spread awareness on the severity of the climate crisis, particularly its impact on youth, and inspired youth, officials, and other community members to take action.
Climate emergencies have been declared in both urban and rural cities in Minnesota.
MN GreenStep Schools: How did you come up with your list of demands and supporting speaking points?
Holly: We started brainstorming our demands about two months before the walkout, and later met with Roseville City Councilmember Julie Strahan to get advice and input. From there, we discussed and voted multiple times within our group to create our final list. We chose demands that we thought were realistic and achievable, and would significantly reduce our city’s and community’s greenhouse gas emissions.
We chose to include a climate emergency declaration on our list because many other cities in the Twin Cities Area have declared climate emergencies, including some less-than-progressive ones, so we feel as though Roseville should too. We believe this is an important first step towards combating climate change in our community.
A few months before the walkout, I attended a presentation by some of the creators of the bill that led to the Solar For Schools grant program, which inspired me to include it on our list. The grant makes getting solar panels for RAHS much more attainable. Now is the time to start building momentum for schools to apply for it, so they can hit the ground running and get as much funding as possible once the program opens its second round.
We decided to include organic waste on our list because disposing of food waste in a landfill, as RAHS currently does, produces methane, a greenhouse gas that traps over 25 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2 does. Many elementary schools in the Roseville Area School district currently do organic waste disposal, and we feel RAHS should too. Community gardens at Roseville Area Schools was included on our list because producing food locally decreases greenhouse gas emissions associated with industrial agriculture and transportation. Creating community gardens is also a way to build community and inspire both students and community members to care for their environment. Additionally, we chose to include organized trash hauling on our list of demands because it reduces the number of garbage trucks on the road, thus decreasing emissions.
Once we finalized our list of demands, we selected the individuals within our club that knew the most about and/or were most passionate about each demand, and had them do further research on it and craft a speech to present at the walkout.
Image: MN GreenStep Schools identifies best practices in four outcome areas: Organizational Leadership, Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs, Improved Health and Wellness, and Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education
MN GreenStep Schools: More specifically for our MN GreenStep Schools audience, how did you hear about MN GreenStep Schools and why did you decide to include it?
Holly: Council-member Strahan told us about MN GreenStep Schools and recommended that we include it on our list of demands. After looking into the program, we quickly decided to add it to our list. We love the way GreenStep Schools seeks to combat environmental issues in a variety of ways, from renewable energy to environmental education. It has realistic steps towards achieving these goals, emphasizes collaboration, and supports schools along the way. We admire how GreenStep sets high standards and has huge ambitions.
Image: The Roseville Area High School Climate Walkout is part of a Global movement
MN GreenStep Schools: I know your climate walkout has drawn a lot of attention. What have been the impacts so far - personally and for your cause? And what are your next steps?
Holly: The walkout was far more impactful than we ever could have imagined. We received so much support and momentum for achieving our goals, from students, officials, and other community members. We have become connected with many other people and organizations, such as local climate action groups, school and city officials, and other youth climate activists across the country. Greta Thunberg herself even re-tweeted one of our posts after the walkout! Many more RAHS students have become interested in joining RAHS Progressives, which is great for the future of our club!
Personally, leading the walkout has allowed me to develop lots of important skills, such as leadership, public speaking, communication, and organization, and made me realize that I have a lot in me that I didn’t know I had. This may sound cliche, but leading the walkout has shown me that anything is possible, and if we believe in our dreams and go after them wholeheartedly, there’s no telling what will happen.
Our next steps are to continue to push for the actions on our list. We’re planning on creating a petition for Roseville to declare a climate emergency that we will present to the city council. We have met with the chair of the school board, who has agreed to look into the GreenStep Schools program, and to try to find a way to finance the cost of going solar that the grant won’t cover. We’re working to gather support for organized trash hauling and plan on attending city council meetings to discuss it. We are also meeting with the assistant superintendent to discuss organic waste disposal at RAHS, as well as other environmental issues that relate to our school district. Additionally, we plan on attending a school board meeting within the next month to discuss the school-related actions on our list.
Photo: Roughly 600 students participated in the walkout
MN GreenStep Schools: For other youth around the state that might be considering a climate walkout, what can you tell them about the planning process and any other advice you'd like to pass on?
Holly: I would recommend planning as far in advance as possible. There are so many steps to organizing an event like this, from communicating with officials and creating social media content to drafting a list of demands, and it takes a lot more time and effort than expected.
I’d advise speakers to make their speeches brief and energetic, in order to keep the crowd engaged. While speaking at our walkout, we realized very quickly that the 15-minute long speeches we had prepared originally weren’t going to work for this kind of event, so we had to improvise a bit. I’d recommend practicing the speeches beforehand to prepare for this type of public speaking.
I'd also advise future youth activists to spend a lot of time researching possible demands. Officials are much more likely to listen to youth if they are knowledgeable about the issues and are specific on what they want. I’d recommend limiting the number of demands to just a few. It can be overwhelming for both youth organizers and officials to have a long list of actions to work towards. Decision makers are more likely to act if youth have specific priorities, not just a lengthy list.
It’s important to remember not to go at it alone. Working with others will reduce burnout and make the strike more effective, and getting as many people involved in the walkout as possible will help the strike reach more people and make it more equitable.
The main advice I would give is to make connections with local officials. Although we want our movements to be youth-led, officials such as city council and school board members have experience and inside knowledge we don’t have, so it can be very beneficial to get their help. We reached out to Roseville City Council Member Julie Strahan, who gave us suggestions, advised us on our list of actions, and helped spread the word about our walkout to many local representatives and city staff. Even now that the walkout is over, we are still continuing to work with Council-member Strahan, as well as other allies we’ve made along the way, to ensure action is taken.
On that note, it can be difficult to avoid treating officials as though you’re angry at them for not taking action (even if you are!) - but telling people that they’re wrong isn’t going to get them to change. Instead, the purpose of a strike should be to show how deeply students care about climate justice, and that they want to work together with those in charge to make progress towards climate action. A great way to do this is to invite officials to your strike, so that they can become involved and see firsthand the action that youth are taking.
Most importantly, I want to remind future youth activists to dream big! Anything is possible, and your voice is far more powerful than you realize.
Thank you Holly, for sharing the story of the Roseville Area High School Climate Walkout.
Want current, solutions-focused climate education? The free multimedia resources at Drawdown Learn can help you develop your understanding, provide examples, inform action, and inspire hope. The Climate Solutions 101 6-part video course includes topic overviews, extended expert conversations, and visual resources to support your teaching or communication work.
From their website: "Drawdown Learn™ is a broad initiative to encourage education and learning about climate solutions based on Project Drawdown’s research, analysis, and insights.
Through our programs and partnerships, we engage people of all ages in climate solutions and create new ways of teaching and learning about how the world can reach Drawdown."
NEEF: From Earth Week to ... Earth Year
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) shifts activities for more opportunities distributed across the year.
"Instead of packing all of our educational resources and events into a handful of days in late April, we have decided to expand our EE offerings throughout the year. This means we can share more high-quality materials and align our EE offerings with a traditional school year schedule—making it more intuitive for educators to incorporate environmental education into their lesson plans." -- NEEF website
Check out their website this Earth Month and every month. It is chock full of webinars, and resources for Greening STEM for all ages. You can also sign up for their monthy newsletter. NEEF Website
Call for Schools
The EmPowered Schools program is recruiting schools in the Twin Cities area for the 2022-2023 school year! EmPowered Schools offers an experiential STEAM curriculum focused on how students can be agents of change in their households and schools by learning about energy efficiency. The program, through its online learning platform, not only teaches students how they can save their schools and families thousands of dollars but helps build their leadership and advocacy skills as well.
3M and Xcel Energy are generously funding the program, so it is free to schools. Plus, participation includes a stipend for staff leads and t-shirts for participants.
If you’d like to learn more, please contact Allison Miller (email@example.com). If you’re ready to sign up, please complete the sign-up form available at bit.ly/3MXcelEmPowered. Space is limited so sign up soon!
What is a MN GreenStep School Resource Organization?
MN GreenStep Schools Member Resource Organizations help schools in their efforts to grow. Read about our Resource Organizations and consider being next… Go to the Resource Organizations Page to sign up.
Who can be a resource organization? Any organization or individual that has something to offer to schools trying to green their facilities, operations, or programming.
These organizations have joined MN GreenStep Schools to help schools with their best practices. You can follow the links to see their profile pages.
Sustainability Internships Class, Sustainability Education at the Institute on the Environment
MN GIS Education Hub, a resource for integrating GIS in K-12 education (member page in progress)
New: EmPowered Schools Program (member page in progress)
Be the Next! Go to the Resource Organizations Page to sign up.
Sustainability Internships Class, Sustainability Education at the Institute on the Environment
This program became a MN GreenStep Schools Resource Organization in spring 2021, and they continue to have a biannual call for those interested in connecting with an intern.
Do you have a need for a college student intern to work on a sustainability-related project?
Each fall and spring semester, the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities offers SUST 4096: Sustainability Internships, a class that supports students in finding internships with a sustainability focus. Students intern for 4, 7 or 10 hours per week for a total of 14 weeks throughout the semester. Students in the class come from majors and programs across the university, but all of them share an interest in sustainability. If you have a project or position that you think could be a good fit for students in the class, reach out to them at their website for details about proposing an internship.
MN GreenStep Schools has worked with five interns from this program so far - it is a great resource and rewarding to provide a meaningful experience for the interns. We are glad to have the Sustainability Internships Class, from Sustainability Education at the Institute on the Environment as a MN GreenStep School Resource Organization Member.
Read more about the Sustainability Internships Class at their Resource Organization profile page.
MN GreenStep Schools Program News
MN GreenStep Schools Best Practices:
BP 1.11 Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience
BP 1.12 Climate Mitigation & Planning (NEW!)
MN GreenStep Schools & Climate Action
How can joining MN GreenStep Schools help districts and schools support climate action?
Many if not most of the existing best practices can improve climate impacts. For example, Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy. But did you know that climate impacts can also be improved by reducing waste, using water more efficiently, purchasing green products, and planning for greener transportation?
BP 1.11 Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience actions, (currently in progress), include strategies that BOTH help schools adapt to climate while ALSO reducing their climate impacts. For example, energy efficiency makes schools more resilient to shifting energy costs AND helps reduce climate impacts.
For Earth Day, 2022, MN GreenStep Schools has announced the addition of a new Best Practice: "BP 1.12 Climate Mitigation & Planning!" The page development is in progress and will help schools address this area of climate response that is related to but distinct from climate adaptation. This section will provide a framework for climate mitigation planning. It will reference the ways that other sections help schools take climate action, and will provide guidance on integrated planning for climate actions that mitigate a district and schools emissions.
Districts and Schools are increasingly aware and active in the climate area and can share the stories of their projects via Green Step Schools project stories and social media.
How else could MN GreenStep Schools help your green teams take climate action?
Meet Rodrica Cogle, MN GreenStep Schools Intern Research Assistant
MN GreenStep Schools is pleased to introduce you our current intern, Research Assistant, Rodrica Cogle. Rodrica is working on multiple projects, including GIS visualization of green schools in Minnesota, and the new "BP 1.12 Climate Mitigation & Planning" best practice.
Rodrica Cogle is currently a senior at the University of Minnesota, where they study Sociology of Law, Criminology and Justice with minors in Public Health and Cognitive Neuroscience. They are passionate about supporting minority, rural, and low-resource communities. After graduating they will attend graduate school for international development and sustainability.
Ongoing: MN Solar Schools Blitz
The MN Solar Schools Blitz is a statewide set of youth activities. Like a bio-blitz, the MN Solar Schools Blitz is an intensive period of time to learn about the natural systems in a specific place. While a bio-blitz usually focuses on identifying species in an event that may span days, our MN Solar Schools Blitz! will identify the existing and potential annual solar energy of schools throughout the state and explore the benefits. Youth in high school or younger, are invited to explore the sun's energy generating benefits at their school - on the roof, or on the ground. Guidance is provided and the results will be compiled on a statewide map. Learn more at the MN Solar Schools Blitz page.
How to Get Involved in MN GreenStep Schools
Youth-led projects (such as these YES! project teams pictured) are one of our favorite kind of Project Stories
7 Ways to Get Involved in MN GreenStep Schools
Sign up on the interest form to become part of our mailing list, show support, introduce yourself to the green schools network
Gather a green team and get your school and district informed about MN GreenStep Schools. Did you know there is a slide show template and other resources you can use to start planning for a MN GreenStep Schools Resolution? Did you know the program is free, voluntary, and flexible?
Work to achieve MN GreenStep Schools Step Level 1 recognition. There are two parts to this: form a green team, and pass a district school board resolution to participate in the program.
Participate in the MN GreenStep Schools Solar Schools Blitz! with support from MN Clean Energy Resource Teams. Learn More about how to Share your Solar Success, Find your Solar Potential, Picture your Solar Future, and Explore Solar Resources for action and learning from MN GreenStep Schools, CERTS, and more. You can participate, even if you haven't joined MN GreenStep Schools yet.
Share your green school project story to show your progress and inspire other schools.
If you are an organization that can help schools achieve their green school goals, become a MN GreenStep School Resource Organization to help schools find you.
These are just some of the ways to get involved, with more opportunities to come.
Thanks to the contacts from Districts, Schools, Resource Organizations, and others
who have expressed interest in MN GreenStep Schools!
who have expressed interest in MN GreenStep Schools!
Interested in the program? Want to be on the mailing list? Sign up in the Interest Form...