Empowering the Next Generation of Environmental Champions: Recognizing the 2023 Climate Superstars National Winners
Climate Superstars Challenge Names The Eva Legard Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies 2022 National Winner
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Fostering awareness and engagement among the next generation is critical to building a sustainable future. With this goal in mind, Samsung has created the Climate Superstars Challenge, an interactive educational initiative that aims to inspire and empower young students across the U.S. in partnership with the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program encourages students to be curious about the environment we live in, examine the challenges that come with climate change, and to be an advocate that creates meaningful impact.
The Eva Legard Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies, a middle school in Baton Rouge, LA was selected as the 2022 National Winner of this prestigious program among six finalists who each received a $5,000 productivity upgrade grant from Samsung to support their classroom with the tools and technology needed to continue to inspire these young leaders. Additionally, in honor of this recognition, the Mayor-President of Baton Rouge has issued a special proclamation, declaring May 11th as Eva Legard Center Day, which acknowledges the school’s outstanding contributions to environmental awareness and conservation.
“There is no greater gift to our planet than instilling the importance of sustainability and preservation to the next generation,” said Mark Newton, Head of North American Corporate Sustainability at Samsung Electronics America. “The Climate Superstars Program inspires students to take an active role in caring for the environment, and we are so proud to honor and recognize the Eva Legard Center for their commitment to sustainability and environmental education. By nurturing a green future and fostering a deep understanding of our interconnectedness with the environment, we are not only celebrating the achievements of students and educators across the country – but also cherishing the promise of a brighter, more sustainable future for our local communities and across the globe.”
Fifty inspiring sixth-grade students of the Eva Legard Center spent a school year learning about the importance of environmental conservation and sustainable practices. They have also been encouraged to become active agents of change in their own communities.
Through the Climate Superstars Challenge, Samsung is nurturing skills needed to tackle the global and local challenges of climate change and resource management head-on. As part of the Climate Superstars program, we continue to be inspired by the many new faces who participate in the program and the educators who are everyday champions for sustainability and climate action.
Please check out the below interview with this year’s winning teacher from the Eva Legard Center, Mrs. Tyler Colson, who empowered her students every day to dream big – as tomorrow’s innovators and creators.
1. Tell us about the Eva Legard Center? And what makes it so special including your students?
The Eva Legard Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies is a public school that is open enrollment for all students in East Baton Rouge. No matter a student’s background, they can enter our school and receive instruction aligned to the State’s curricula with an environmental focus for the entirety of their middle and high school years. Upon graduation, students receive automatic admission into LSU’s College of the Coast and the Environment to continue as a scientist and activist in the environmental fields. Every month, our students attend field trips in addition to actively gardening and composting at our school. They also raise class pets. Our school doesn’t just talk the talk – we create meaningful learning experiences each and every day.
2. How did you become interested in climate education and environmental issues?
As a native of Baton Rouge, I became interested in environmental issues through environmental justice. Even though I am only 32, I have seen how people’s lives have been severely affected by their geographical location in the city. I became a teacher because I wanted to help bridge the gap through education and when Eva Legard opened, I knew that it would be perfect for me because I could address these injustices in the same neighborhood that I grew up in.
3. What inspired you to participate in the Climate Superstars program?
I finished the curriculum for my STEM class that we were working with and I wanted to end the semester by really getting the kids involved in our school’s themes, which include environmental and coastal studies. Someone from our district sent us the link to participate and I was happy to use it. My students have really enjoyed the program and they were even more excited about winning!
4. Have you and your students participated in any programs to address the environmental issues in Baton Rouge?
We participated in the EcoRise program as well as using curricula from The Climate Initiative. We are partnering with LEAN (Louisiana Environmental Action Network) to develop curricula that bring attention to local environmental issues through education for K-12 students. We are also starting a community garden in combination with our hydroponic garden to address food insecurity in our neighborhood.
5. What do you think is the most significant accomplishment of your participation in the program?
Our most significant accomplishment in the program is connecting what we have learned to what we experience. Through the program, students have seen how climate change affects THEM.
6. What role do you think technology should play in addressing environmental awareness for future generations?
Technology is imperative to more effectively address the challenges of climate change. We are currently using drone technology in order to document the landscape, especially over areas such as wetlands that are not easily accessible on foot.
7. How do you empower your students to become advocates for change?
I empower my students to become advocates for change by documenting for themselves what they see in our community and to find solutions. For example, we discussed the lack of grocery store options within a five-mile radius and came up with ideas for solutions. Being active in change is advocacy work in itself.
8. What are some memorable moments from your experience with Climate Superstars?
A memorable moment during the experience was talking with my class about the great flood of 2016 in Louisiana, which displaced many of our students as well as Hurricane Ida, which hit Baton Rouge directly. Many students were able to connect how climate change helped contribute to the devastation of these events. It was surreal to discuss events that they remembered in their lifetime at only 11 years old.
9. Would you recommend the program to other teachers? And why?
I would definitely recommend the program to other teachers because it is easy to follow and addresses climate change in a quick and effective way.
10. In what way has the Climate Superstars influenced your school’s culture?
Climate Superstars has helped to develop our school as a school of activism instead of simply a school of research. We learn about our environment but Climate Superstars has helped us be active agents of change.