On a cold and dreary morning in April, students from Breakwater traveled together to the Statehouse in Augusta to participate in a rally dedicated to the fight for climate justice. The energy and power of this international movement, started and perpetuated largely by young people, has been reverberating within elementary schools through colleges in Maine for the last several months. Breakwater has been at the forefront helping to educate, build solidarity with other young activists, and share their intense love for and knowledge of our planet.
On the morning of the rally, students designed and created posters to help demonstrate their thoughts on climate change, rehearsed a song with Zev called “Sing for the Climate (Do it Now!)” and shared thoughts with each other about climate justice and what that means to them as individuals and as a community. Once in Augusta, students broke up into two groups: Third and fourth graders who traveled for the rally but also went to celebrate the culmination of their Changemaker unit, observed part of the open session debates happening at the state house, met our representatives and got a glimpse of civics in action. The other group comprised largely of students from the Students 4 Civil Rights club and some other interested middle school students, went directly to the rally to learn some protest songs and greet students from over twenty other schools in Maine.
Even though the rain and wind was raw and cold, Breakwater students rarely complained and instead reveled in the opportunity to share their voices. They learned several protest songs from rally organizers, proudly held up their signs and heard speeches from middle school through college speakers. Representative Chellie Pingree and Governor Janet Mills both made an appearance at the rally and gave speeches sharing their promise that they would stand alongside the students in the fight for climate justice. Breakwater alumna, Quilla Flanagan-Burt gave a powerful speech about climate change and its effects on the local economy. It was inspiring for our students to see a former Breakwater student in such a powerful position and they were moved by Quilla’s honesty, intensity and grit.
“Maine should not deny, fear, or downplay the facts of climate change. Instead we should accept, confront, and embrace the opportunities to do the right thing as a state and a populace. DIRIGO is Maine’s latin motto- I lead. Let us lead the nation with the green new deal. Let us lead the nation with environmental justice. Let us lead the nation to renewed hope.” ~Quilla Flanagan-Burt
Zev Bliss, who leads the Students 4 Civil Rights group at Breakwater, said that he felt that the rally was inspirational, and a wonderful way to ground learning about climate science, democracy, and social change.
“We created signs, sang songs, and made our voices heard! A few of us even wrote letters to our specific representatives. We saw middle school, high school, and college student speakers, as well as Maine’s new governor, Janet Mills and Chellie Pingree. Students thought critically about the world and their society, bringing context and knowledge from 3/4’s changemaker projects, middle school’s civics projects, and the Students For Civil Rights group’s study on climate science and climate change.” -Zev Bliss
Third and fourth grade teacher, Krys Carriere reflects: “If we hope for the students of today to become thoughtful, engaged adults in their communities, educators have an important job to do. It’s not our role to teach them to believe as we do, or to tell them what to think; Instead, we strive to teach them how to think critically and make informed decisions on their own path of understanding, which reaches far beyond our third and fourth grade classrooms and into their future lives.”
The climate rally was a powerful way for our students to benefit from speaking up proudly with a group of peers with similar passions and convictions, and to fight together for something that stirs and inspires them. Students left Augusta that Tuesday with feelings of hope and urgency. It is inspiring to see all the ways they engage passionately with their world, teaching us over and over about what’s most important. Below is a video highlighting the events of the day and providing a snapshot of what happens when students stand up and insist their voices be heard.