Many students in our classrooms have the potential to make contributions that can change society. The dozen vignettes in this video highlight the accomplishments of a group of outstanding ethnically and culturally diverse young people who have won the prestigious Brower Youth Award in 2010 and 2011.
Eighteen-year-old Misra Walker became interested in environmental activism as a child and had a deep concern for people’s health and quality of life. Realizing that many in her Bronx community were without access to a community recreational park 15 miles away, she worked to gain support and organize a city shuttle bus to provide service to the park.
Varsha Vishay was inspired by wild places. Working with the Waorani Indians of Ecuador, she promoted conservation ethics in the Amazon Basin, considered the most biodiverse area in the world. Her work enabled the native people to have a more effective voice when dealing with outside oil interests that threatened the deforestation of their territory.
De’Anthony Jones, an enthusiastic San Francisco high school student, educated his peers and his community in environmental justice and ecological sustainability. He organized a variety of activities, such as eco-fests, cultural programs, making videos, recycling, composting, and gardening, to raise student awareness. Guiding his efforts was his slogan, “You’re the light; you’re the future.”
High school sophomore Freya Chay believes that even small things can make a difference. Learning that people using windmills as alternative energy sources were being charged additional property taxes on the value of the equipment, she drafted a bill to the Alaska legislature. Her representative introduced it as an amendment to the Omnibus energy bill. Her efforts were successful in changing Alaskan energy policy.
Victor Davila is an avid skateboarder from Hunt’s Point in the Bronx, an area with multiple serious social, ecological, and health issues. Convinced that skateboarders can make a difference, he formed EcoRyders, an environment-based educational project, in which each student designs a skateboard using themes taught in the program. Considering it his civic duty, Davila’s goal is to make Hunt’s Point a better place “one skateboard at a time.”
The six stories summarized above are among 12 vignettes that provide a wonderful and inspiring picture of what can happen when intense, committed youth identify a social or environmental problem and work to do something about it. There are many great ideas and clever solutions that these 15- to 21-year-old youths have come up with. They are the true “Forces of Nature” of the DVD title. For a school or class that has a service learning component, these stories present good role models that may be especially useful in showing motivated students how they can make positive changes in their communities. The DVD would be useful in middle school, high school, or college science classes, particularly those emphasizing environmental issues.
The segments are narrated by the students featured in them and generally they are easy to follow. Because not all are accomplished public speakers, however, there are subtitles to read as they are speaking. Viewers should be aware that, in some places, the transcribers have made minor errors, so that, among other examples, “borough” is shown as “burrow” and “house gates” is transcribed as “house of aids.”
Teachers with highly motivated students may wish to have them consider the Brower Youth Awards, named for environmentalist David Brower. The awards honor North America’s young environmental leaders with cash prizes and ongoing leadership support.
ROBERTA BATORSKY, an experienced high school and college biology teacher, is adjunct faculty at Rowan University. Roberta has a B.S. and an M.S. in biology. Her address is 25 Hinkle Drive, Bordentown, NJ 08505; e-mail: email@example.com. Roberta welcomes submissions of classroom media for review in ABT.