Finding Future Storytellers; Reflecting on the 2013 Earth Month Youth Forum

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On Saturday, April 25th, I spent the afternoon at the Earth Month Youth Forum with 250 educators and students. The event, presented by Earth Day Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), was a positive and uplifting experience. Its keynote speakers and host were inspiring, while the workshops that were run by a variety of organizations provided a grounded approach to bringing real environmental change. My day was filled with talking to youth, educators and participating in two workshops run by the Jane Goodall Foundation.

To start the forum, host Simon Jackson shared his experiences gained from founding Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, the largest youth-run environmental organization in the world. He addressed what would become common threads throughout the forum, the ideas of balance, working together, and raising our voices. Keynote Speaker, and famed photographer, Sebastião Salgado carried these ideas, emphasizing balance through being honest with our planet. It was a beautiful and timely sentiment.

Working together and raising our voices was commonplace throughout the workshops I attended. At one of the environmental education workshops run by the Jane Goodall Foundation, educators explored communicating environmental messages using Aboriginal ways of knowing. This holistic approach emphasized the difference between values and knowledge, and how the former can be taught to students.

Values were put to the test during a workshop for youth, which was also run by the Jane Goodall Foundation. Groups were tasked with concept mapping different ideas. It was a creative and encouraging experience. My group used the concept map to go through what would happen if there were no more harmful invasive species. After completing the exercise, the message was clear; an environmental issue is not just an environmental issue - it is also a social, cultural, and economic one.

The forum concluded with a keynote speech by Dr. Roberta Bondar. Dr. Bondar spent time reflecting on the need for action. I must say that her talk, along with the rest of the forum gave me an optimistic feeling. Most importantly, I think the message of one voice making a difference was clearly made at the forum. David Ireland, the managing director of the ROM's Centre of Discovery and Biodiversity started the forum by saying that, “there are more stories to be told then there are great storytellers”, and my experience at the 2013 Earth Month Forum has given me hope that there are some great young storytellers out there.