Reflections on Changing Minds at Roseville High School

Grant JohnsonGrant Johnson is a recent graduate of Roseville Area High School and an entering first-year student at the University of Minnesota, pursuing a degree in environmental science with a minor in climatology. Grant was mentored by WSF Associate Director, Janet Brown this past year to share his climate change presentation. Below are his reflections.

My passion first started when I saw Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, where I wondered how we as a society could overlook such an obvious crisis looming overhead, or at least obvious to some of us. I wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem.

At the end of my senior year, I had the wonderful opportunity to give a presentation about climate change to some of my classmates. I was motivated to do this during one of my classes in the fall trimester, when my teacher asked the class how many of us believed in climate change. Much to my disappointment, only around a third of the class raised their hands. While I controlled my emotions on the outside, my mind was screaming. My instincts told me I should do what an aspiring climatologist should do; educate others on the negative effects of climate change.

Grant JohnsonI met Janet Brown, Associate Director at Will Steger Foundation, at a climate change presentation she was doing in the fall. I told her my plans to present to my school and she said she was willing to work with me on a presentation on the condition that I secured the presentation for my school, agreed to present to the high school YEA! MN group, in addition to any other high schools that would be interested in a presentation. I agreed and we met from February through May for four 2-hour sessions. I was provided with presentation slides, climate change education materials and a knowledgeable source to ask questions in order to prepare a presentation in my school’s auditorium. Fortunately, my school’s principal fully supported my endeavors, in addition to my chemistry teacher who sponsored my event and made it possible for me to reserve the auditorium.

In addition to working on my presentation, I also had to find students to attend – which is more difficult than one might think. At the end of the school year, teachers are cramming the curriculum in to make sure it all gets covered. I emailed many teachers to see if they were interested, and only few could come. With the help of some supportive teachers, I was able to get the word out to teachers I did not know, and thus was able to bump up my numbers by a substantial amount.

Students

On May 30th I presented to a group of almost 200 students! My presentation lasted 45 minutes with an additional 15 minutes for questions and answers. I was impressed that there were thought provoking questions, which made me do additional research once I got home and also made me realize people were listening. That was when I knew it was really worth it, because I was able to learn and expand my knowledge on climate science while presenting the rudimentary facts. I told myself going into it, that if just one student changed their opinion on climate change and took an action to help the environment, even if it was as small as changing a lightbulb to a compact fluorescent, then it would be worth it. While I will never know if that actually happened, I did receive a lot of good feedback and hold a positive hopefulness that it did make a difference. This filled me with a wonderful feeling of self-gratification. Hopefully I can have that feeling many more times in the future.

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