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01.11.2017

Saturday, the 7th of October, 2017, 22 students from California and Oregon participated in the kick-off of Plant-for-the-Planet in California! It took place at Washington Elementary School in Sacramento, California, and was hosted by 350 Sacramento, thanks especially to Laurie Litman who acted as the local program coordinator and took on the leadership of accomplishing what was effectively the first California Academy, and also to Climate Reality Leader and teacher Kim Schouten and Principal Gema Godina. The Academy grew out of a call for 350 leaders about Plant-for-the-Planet organized by the Seattle team, in which Pam, Plant-for-the-Planet U.S.’s Acting Executive Director, took part to encourage the spread of Academies across the U.S. She also arranged for a team to come from Oregon to lead the training.

The Academy was supported by 350 Sacramento and Washington Elementary School, as well as by Norwegian author Teresa Grøtan and several other people who helped to make it possible. The Academy was led by Pam Vergun, and Ambassadors Isaac Vergun, Miko Vergun, Miya Gibson, and Lily Rensmith. Bill Rensmith led the parents’ meeting during the Academy. All were assisted by great volunteers.

The morning of the Academy, we were met at Laurie’s with delicious scones and jam and hurried to pick up the others and get to the site. While the Oregon team and local leaders got things set up, CBS Good Day Sacramento filmed an interview about the Academy for broadcast that morning: http://gooddaysacramento.cbslocal.com/video/3742331-plant-for-the-planet/.

Students and parents arrived at Washington Elementary and were met by volunteers who took care of any missing registration information. They were greeted by the Ambassadors leading the Academy: Miya, Lilly, Miko and Isaac. Pam introduced Plant-for-the-Planet. Next, the four Ambassadors gave the presentation.

Then, we took a break and enjoyed a delicious snack.

We played the World Game. Then, we turned to Rhetoric Practice and discussed what makes a speech effective and gave out the slides with the presenters notes so students could practice giving small parts of the talk. Pam worked with the students to help each decide who would present which slides in the afternoon. At first only some were going to present, but in the end, all the students ended up preparing to present at the end of the day, even the ones who had to leave early, which caused some confusion. But all the students were patient with the process, supportive of each other, and got to present if they were able to stay until the end.

We then went to the park next door that Pam had located thanks to Apple Maps, where we were to plant the trees. With the help of adults and other volunteers, students and Ambassadors planted two tall, beautiful, oak trees. Everyone took turns planting them.

Afterwards, we came back inside and had a great lunch with all sorts of options. We talked about the importance of taking only the food we know we can eat and making sure that nothing is wasted—that we can save leftovers and compost all that is left or can’t be eaten, and recycle all that can be recycled.

Then, Pam helped the students to practice the presentation for the afternoon slideshow in a nearby classroom. Some students started doing the World Café, but due to confusion resulting from high school students who thought they were volunteers and not students in the Academy, it ended up with too few students, and since the students all wanted to present, in the end, everyone joined the slide practice. Several students were very patient with giving slides to others that they had been practicing or taking on slides to get done late in the practice.

All the students presented, most keeping to their resolution to presenting without notes. The presentation was attended by the families of the students and the volunteers, as well as our VIP, Artists Milton 510 Bowes (http://www.milton510.com/), whose motto is “Art for Education, not just decoration…” He gave a wonderful and entertaining presentation, and Kim brought a piece of his artwork to share.

Students received their appointments as Climate Justice Ambassadors, along with certificates, Tree by Tree, Everything Would Be Alright, and signed portraits from NASA Astronaut and Environmentalist Stanley Love. And, of course, we got some great photos and videos. The Sacramento team did most of the cleanup, kindly allowing the Oregon folks to gather their things up quickly and get on the road to the Bay Area to have a quick feast for dinner at a kind Italian restaurant, Art’s Place in Rohnert Park and prepare for Miko’s talk on nuclear testing and climate change in Sebastopol that night.

Bill Rensmith led his first parents’ meeting at an Academy, and it was extremely well received. We started these meetings to help parents get a better understanding of parents’ imperative role in helping their Ambassadors be successful at making change. Parents really appreciated the chance to talk with each other as parents about the climate crisis.

We would like to thank all those involved in this wonderful Academy. I think the Ambassadors and their families appreciated the work that Pam, Laurie, and Kim had put into the Academy. Everyone agreed that Miko, Isaac, Lily, and Miya did an awesome job leading the Academy, and that Bill’s parent meeting was excellent. Special thanks to Milton, and to the generous support of other community volunteers who volunteered at the Academy and in other ways.

We deeply appreciate the kind donation by Washington Elementary School and Washington Park for giving us the use of their beautiful park and school. And, thank you to Rob Vergun for all he did behind the scenes. And, as always, we appreciated the help received from many others.

You can find fotos of the Academy here.

You want to become a Climate Justuce Ambassador as well? Then register for an Academy nearby here.

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