Local students inspire at Youth Earth Summit in Padilla Bay

Submitted by Friends of the San Juans

Once a year, regional youth gather at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to explore creative solutions for climate change. Thirteen students from the Friday Harbor Eco Club proudly participated in this year’s Youth Earth Summit under the guidance of Jess Newley from Friends of the San Juans (Friends), science teacher Sam Garson from Friday Harbor High School, and Katie Fleming from San Juan County’s Department of Environmental Stewardship.

This annual gathering unites passionate young environmentalists to develop action plans for themselves, their schools, and their communities to ensure the health and safety of our planet. Joining over 50 regional youth, Jess Newley, the Community Science and Education Director at Friends, took the stage alongside Kaia Olson, a long-time youth intern and volunteer with Friends. Together, they co-led an engaging workshop about the Immersive Salish Sea Education program, which uses Virtual Reality technology to take students on an underwater adventure and connect them with the marine food web in an unforgettable, hands-on way.

Kaia Olson, now a student at Western Washington University, shared, “I love the Youth Earth Summit because I think it is essential to support young people as climate activists. Sharing the Virtual Reality program, in particular, was an opportunity to engage students with this ecosystem in a way they might not ordinarily experience, while also encouraging them to ask questions about technology in environmental education.”

Friends’ Immersive Education Program collaborates with regional teachers and community leaders to inspire and educate youth about the natural wonders of the Salish Sea and the importance of the marine food web in the San Juan Islands. To learn more about the Immersive Salish Sea Education program, the Friday Harbor Eco Club, and other opportunities for youth, visit www.sanjuans.org/program/youth-education.