Bringing young people’s voices into the climate change conversation has garnered a Bay Area Metro Award for U.C. Berkeley’s Center for Cities + Schools and its Y–PLAN program.
Y-PLAN — which stands for Youth, Plan, Learn, Act, Now — offers a framework to meaningfully engage students to conduct ecological, social and political research about the impact of climate change, sea level rise, and healthy, vibrant communities. The Center for Cities + Schools took its Y-PLAN framework and partnered with Resilient by Design, a year-long effort to bring together local residents, public officials and local, national and international experts to develop community-based solutions to climate change.
Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, Y-PLAN supported nearly 800 students in 32 classrooms in 13 elementary and high schools across five cities -- Richmond, Oakland, San Francisco, East Palo Alto and San Rafael. Students developed more than 70 proposals that addressed sea level rise, housing displacement, food security, active transportation and college access. Their ideas included using physical education classes to generate power for schools; floating housing and solar panels; and turning parking spots into ‘parklets’ to encourage alternative forms of transportation.
“Young people bring a different voice to the equation. We also work in urban public schools so the overwhelming majority of our students are low-income students of color. So we’re not only bridging gaps of age, but we’re also bridging gaps of race and income level and power dynamics,” noted Amanda Eppley, Assistant Director of the Center for Cities + Schools.
Elizabeth, a Y-PLAN scholar from East Palo Alto, remarked about the Y-PLAN program: “They’re asking us. I notice that students are waking up to we’re the ones who create change.”