Youth Activists Find Positive Solutions for Environmental Challenges
To compete in the Challenge, youth from around the world were invited to consider the effects of the pandemic on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and to propose solutions through a 2-minute video explaining their idea. In January 2021, videos were uploaded to the Teens Dream Changemaker Challenge competition, sponsored by the Global Co Lab Network in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. A 15-member jury judged all videos in three rounds, with winners and commendations announced on March 21.
“We’re proud of Priya and the work that she’s done,” said Baldwin Brown, principal of I.M. Terrell High School. “To be able to do something at this level in the virtual setting really speaks highly of her and the type of student she is.”
Pilar Olivas, a junior at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, also came away with high honors. Pilar was one of only 4 awardees nationwide selected for the highly prestigious Smithsonian Filmmaking Teen Internship. Pilar’s video and action plan focused on building better mental health through compassion.
This is the first time the Teens Dream video competition has collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution to recruit young changemakers from its Affiliate partner communities. The collaboration aligns with the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism initiative, which aims to find positive solutions to environmental problems that can be replicated and scaled.
“Now in its seventh year, this competition has always attracted great ideas from youth. In partnering with the Smithsonian for the first time, we focused on the implementation of student solutions, and the real-world execution of ideas. We were really impressed by the quality of the submissions,” said Linda Staheli, Director of the Global CoLab Network which sponsors the competition. (See all 2020 submissions at https://teensdreamcolab.org/our-submissions/).
One hundred and forty videos were received, from students in 10 states and 8 countries, including Kuwait, Costa Rica, Turkey, Vietnam, Mexico and Spain. The 15-member jury included communication and environmental experts, Smithsonian staff, teen activists and former winners.
“Seeing so many fresh, innovative, and yet realistic solutions to the environmental issues we face was truly an inspiration,” said Jennifer Brundage and Brian Coyle, co-directors of the project at the Smithsonian. “We embrace this opportunity to empower students to be the transformational changemakers we know they are. We are deeply committed to helping make their dreams a reality.”
Addressing the global climate crisis with innovative approaches to environmental challenges is a priority at the Smithsonian. Through its Earth Optimism Initiative and collaborations with Smithsonian Affiliates and organizations such as the Global CoLab Network, the Smithsonian works to inspire more young people to become environmental leaders. Awardees’ videos will be posted online at Smithsonian and Global CoLab Network sites in April. Smithsonian staff will continue to work with mentors and students at Smithsonian Affiliates to offer resources and guidance. Another gathering is tentatively planned for October 2021 in Washington, D.C. to spotlight the implementation of student ideas.
About Smithsonian Affiliations
Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term, collaborative partnerships with museums, educational, and cultural organizations to share Smithsonian collections, build collaborative networks, and engage learners of all ages with Smithsonian resources. More information is available at www.affiliations.si.edu.
About the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Initiative
Earth Optimism is a vision, an event, and a movement to shift the conservation conversation from one of doom and gloom to hope and optimism. The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. We have documented the fast pace of habitat loss, the growing number of endangered and extinct species, and the increasing speed of global climate change. Yet while the seriousness of these threats cannot be denied, there are a growing number of examples of improvements in the health of species and ecosystems, along with benefits to human well-being, thanks to our conservation actions. Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability. More information is available at https://conservationcommons.si.edu/earth-optimism/
Left to Right: Priya Stamper (9th Grade), Pilar Olivas (11th Grade). Credit: Forth Worth Museum of Science and History.
The Museum was established in 1941, is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute. Anchored by its rich collections, the Museum is dedicated to lifelong learning. It engages guests through creative, vibrant programs and exhibits interpreting science and the history of Texas and the Southwest. For more information, visit www.fortworthmuseum.org.