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Youth Crew Climate Change Interpreter talks with guests

Changing the Conversation on Climate

Empowering Youth Volunteers as Climate Change Interpreters
  • Climate change


Utilizing high school volunteers as climate interpreters benefits not only the students themselves, but provides an additional voice and perspective for our communities around a key conservation issue facing both animals and people alike. High school students at The Marine Mammal Center, a nonprofit marine mammal hospital and education facility in Sausalito, CA, were introduced to the science of climate change, scientifically-tested communication strategies, and best practices of interpretation as they prepared to engage guests at hands-on, interpretive stations throughout the hospital around the impacts of climate change on marine mammals and how we can all take action to prevent climate change. Youth volunteers, with the opportunity to practice and hone their public speaking skills, as well as specialize in the science of climate change and communication, experienced significant gains in understanding of climate change science and self-reported environmental behaviors. For visitors to the hospital, these new interpretation stations provided hands-on activities that bring the science and stories of climate change to the forefront of their visit and guidance on how individuals and communities can take action to reduce their carbon footprint, along with opportunities to make a public pledge to reduce their carbon footprint. In total, youth volunteers engaged over 3,580 visitors, resulting in over 860 pledges to reduce their carbon footprint. Follow-up surveys revealed that visitors not only completed their pledges, but at times expanded their individual behaviors into community-level action to lower carbon and methane emissions.

Ratner, A.R. Changing the Conversation on Climate. International Zoo Educators Association Journal, Vol. 54, 2018.

climate change
Adam Ratner

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