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Students at Russell Reid Public School Demand Action on Climate Change

Students holding signs demanding action on climate chance stand with their teacher

Caption: Students Hannah, Grace, Charlotte, Tia, and Torie, along with Teacher Michaela Kargus, prepare for the rally they helped organize.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi’s oft-repeated words rang true at Russell Reid Public School last Friday (February 8), when a group of environmentally consciously Grade 8 students organized a rally to raise awareness of climate change, and to put pressure on elected officials who are in a position to do something about it.

“We wanted to grab as much attention as we could, and inspire people to make small changes to help the earth,” says Charlotte, a Grade 8 student who is part of small group of students who’ve dubbed themselves The Future. “Having a safe planet is the most important thing.”

The initiative grew out of a data management assignment in Mrs. Kargus’ Grade 7/8 class to collect information about the school’s recycling program. The data began to reveal that even with the blue bins in place, they weren’t always being used properly, and so the group set out to determine why. It became apparent that an awareness-raising campaign was needed at the school. The group didn’t expect to catch the attention of a City of Brantford Councillor, however.

“Charlotte sent me an email to tell me about the work they’d done, and it was clear the group had given these issues a lot of thought,” said City of Brantford Ward 2 Councillor John Sless, who is at the beginning stages of proposing a bill that would eliminate single-use plastic straws in the city. “Anything we can do to empower them and help them get more involved is very worthwhile.”

Students stand with a Trustee and a City Counselor during a climate change rally

Caption: Students had the support of Trustee Carol Ann Sloat and Brantford Councillor John Sless during the rally.

Sless was on hand at the rally, and has invited the students to be a part of what will likely be at least a year-long process to pass the bill.

“It should be the ultimate civics lesson,” Sless said.

With placards reading “Make the Planet Cool Again,” and a chant of “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Climate change has got to go,” intermediate students left their classrooms briefly and took to the sidewalk, Charlotte using a megaphone to drum up further enthusiasm for the cause. Passing cars offered honks and waves.

“We won’t have a future without a healthy, clean planet,” said Grade 8 student Hannah, also part of The Future. “We can do something now to make the difference.”

The group has plans to continue building the momentum the rally helped spark, and is bringing plenty of awareness and action to their school in the process.

“My generation was supposed to be the one that would do something to solve the climate crisis, and now the current generation is speaking up and asking us to listen,” said Richard Leadbetter, Principal at Russel Reid, during the rally. “I think today’s event has gone beyond the students’ expectations, and it’s very clear to them that people are listening.”

Grand Erie District School Board Trustee Carol Ann Sloat was also on hand for the rally. She was impressed with the passion and knowledge of the students and the efforts of the entire school in putting the environment first.

“It’s wonderful to see our elementary students reminding us of the duty we all have to our world,” said Sloat. “Their efforts reflect Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan and our focus on Environment as one of six key indicators of Success for Every Student.”

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