On November 21, more than 60 elementary students from ten schools across Grey and Bruce gathered at the Sydenham Campus in Owen Sound for the second annual Youth Climate Action Conference (YCAC). This one-day conference, organized by The Sustainability Project in partnership with Grey County, set out to engage youth with climate action in our community. Students from Grades 6, 7, and 8 represented schools from Lion’s Head, Hepworth, Meaford, Walkerton, Holland Chatsworth, Tara, and Owen Sound.
The theme of this year’s conference was ‘multi-solving’: working together across sectors to address multiple problems with one initiative. More than 50 volunteers, including local high school and Georgian College students, came out to support the event. Special guests included Saugeen First Nation Knowledge Keeper James Kewaquom, Grey County Warden Brian Milne, Owen Sound Deputy Mayor Scott Greig, as well as several Bluewater School Board superintendents and municipal councillors from Owen Sound and Georgian Bluffs.
The conference included two youth panels – one with four secondary students from the Bagida’waad Alliance and Owen Sound District Secondary School. The second panel featured six elementary students from the Keppel Sarawak Eco-Team. They were joined by Georgian Bluffs CAO Niall Lobley and Councillor Tobin Day. This panel was moderated by Owen Sound City Councillor Jon Farmer.
Inspired by last year’s conference, the Keppel Sarawak Eco-Team has started a school composting program, roadside cleanup in Kemble, and advocated for a sidewalk extension in the Keppel area to create a safer way to walk or bike to school. As one student noted, “We are now a group of 14 students who are very excited to make a difference.”
Attendees had the opportunity to learn more about local climate action work by visiting ten booths staffed by local businesses and environmental organizations. For the second half of the day, students split up into groups and dug into developing their own actionable climate projects.
“[Each student] left with a group or individual climate action plan they will hopefully implement in their community,” said Hilary Colburn, a local elementary teacher and one of the lead conference organizers with The Sustainability Project. “[In] the workshop, we asked students to identify their passions and environmental problems in their community, and then, asked them how they can use their passion to create a solution to the problem.”
Local community volunteers have been matched with each participating school and will help mentor and support the youth in bringing their action projects to fruition. A crowdfunding campaign hosted by the Small Change Fund raised nearly $1,500 to support the conference and these projects. Students will also have an opportunity to present their work at Owen Sound’s Earth Day event in April.
To see a video of the day, visit Grey County’s Youtube Page.