VIDEO, PHOTOS: Columbia High Students Organize Climate Crisis ‘Teach-In’

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On Friday, December 6, Columbia High School student leaders from the Students for Justice Club (SFJ) and Environmental Club led students and community members in their second MAPSO Climate Strike.

The first MAPSO Climate Strike was on September 20, in correlation with the global strike occurring that day. It involved a rally at Maplewood Town Hall followed by students meeting on Ritzer Field behind Columbia for an afternoon of climate activism. Activities included phone banking, petition signing, voter registration, trash pickups, and decorating reusable bags. We concluded by hearing from a representative from NJ Clean Water Action about the importance of a Moratorium on all fossil fuel projects and how we could contribute.

For the second strike, which was also in correlation with a global strike, organizers wanted to create a larger, community focused evening of activism, learning, and direct action. From that, the idea for the Teach-In was born.

December 2019 CHS Climate Teach-In

The activism activities began the morning of the strike at around 6:20 am when student leaders and volunteers met at the South Orange and Maplewood train stations. They handed out flyers to commuters with information about that night’s teach-in and a QR code linked to information about how people can be more climate-conscious citizens. After the day’s events, student organizer Anna Pettigrew said, “It was very exciting when one woman came in and she showed us the flyer that she had gotten at the train station that morning. As long as one person from that came, then we know it was worth it.”

The event began at 6:15 with organizers Laila Gold and Jordan Muhammad introducing the event. The teach-in highlighted topics including the different effects of and contributors to climate change, the importance of discussion and education on the subjects (especially in talking to your children and your peers), the work that different organizations are doing to make New Jersey more sustainable, and more.

The evening consisted of presentations, demonstrations, and tables focusing on specific direct actions and activities for community members of all ages to combat the climate crisis. In addition to those mentioned in the schedule above, organizations and representatives present included: Susan Haig from CivicStory,  Lorraine Graves for the South Orange Environmental Commission, CHS student Jordan Muhammad from the Students for Justice Club, Jennifer Nielson from SOMA Action, Anthony Dias from the Newark Water Coalition, CHS students Emmy Cramer and Lauren Barnett representing Tuscan Beyond the Bell students, and CHS students Natasha Lyons, Arielle Loubier, and Louisa Maynard-Parisi, from the Photography Club.

The event was family-friendly and included multiple sustainable crafts for kids. Along with her presentation on sustainable art, CHS teacher Kate Dodd led the creation of tree ornaments from used aluminum cans. In addition, two CHS student volunteers, Faith Orzeck and Katie Trzaska, helped kids make bird feeders from sticks, sun butter, and birdseed. 

The organizers were thrilled with the turnout. Over 100 people of all ages and backgrounds attended the event. The goal of the event was to get community members to really think about what they can do to combat this crisis and the organizers were not disappointed. After Andrea Rebimbas’ presentation on veganism, volunteer Ben Morris heard a young kid tell their father in a loud commanding voice, “Do not buy any more meat for our house EVER!”. Lily Forman, another organizer, heard that after watching Jordan Muhammad’s demonstration about upcycling, a child was inspired to start their own upcycling operation. 

We are grateful for the help of many community members in the planning of this teach-in, including Lisa Mainardi, Event Coordinator from the Woodland, Tracy Woods, Chair of the Maplewood Green Team and all student volunteers, including, CHS Junior Alex Kelly. We are grateful for the open-minded community we live in, where we are supported by so many. With this in mind, we strive to do everything we possibly can to advocate for ourselves and others. We plan on doing many more action-based community events to combat climate change and are looking forward to partnering with the organizations and people we made connections with this Friday in the future.

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