Personal Perspectives

Teens Making a Difference in Your Community

North Carolina Delegation students and teachers posing for a photo in front of the ocean at Bald Head Island in North Carolina
The North Carolina Aquarium delegation visited Baldhead Island, a barrier island near Wilmington, N.C., to observe and learn about the effects sea-level rise firsthand for their Student Summit project.

Over the past year I have been working for an organization called Coastal America helping to plan the Third National Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts, a program that teams up high school students with educators to work on an ocean-related research project and “action plan” in their community.

In February, the program brought 80 students and 40 educators from schools and aquariums across the United States and Mexico to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History to present their plans for projects that involve the ocean and climate. The student presentations were webcast live on the Ocean Portal, breaking records for the number of visits to the site. If you missed the webcasts, you can watch them here.

The students have since returned home and are implementing their plans. Their projects are diverse: The teens are studying the ocean’s chemistry and marine life, restoring marshes, teaching school children, and organizing beach sweeps. There are 20 student delegations that participated in the Student Summit. That means there are 20 teams of young people across North America who are doing amazing projects in communities like yours.

For example, the students from Isaac Bear High School in Wilmington, N.C., have been studying the ocean and climate in Coastal Carolina. The students took a field trip to a barrier island near Wilmington to observe the effects of sea-level rise and other climate impacts on the habitat. Many of the student delegations conducted fieldwork as part of their projects.

The next step is to create a plan. The North Carolina students identified a need to raise awareness about climate change among residents of Coastal Carolina. They are creating a climate change curriculum and a full-length documentary film, scheduled to premiere in September. Get ready to learn, North Carolina!

The students from North Carolina and elsewhere are making a difference in our communities. Over the next year we are going to highlight all 20 of the delegations here on the Smithsonian Ocean Portal and keep their efforts in the spotlight.

As for me, I now have the unique opportunity to continue to be an active part of the Student Summit from a different perspective. As the new Community Manager for the Ocean Portal, I will be reporting on the progress of all the delegations using blog posts, multimedia, and social media updates.

So if you missed seeing the student presentations in February, check out the archived Student Summit presentations here and tell us what you think. Dive in, and explore these inspiring community projects to protect the ocean.

April 2011