Can peanut butter and jelly save the world? Ask a sixth-grader

By Susan Mustapich | May 19, 2018
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Wearing white dress shirts and ties, Mason Thomas, left, and Ryan Glaser, right, make the case for converting to LED lights that use less energy and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions at the Kids Conference for Change April 4, at Camden-Rockport Middle School.

CAMDEN — Sixth-grade students took charge at the Kids Conference for Change April 4, presenting solutions for curbing global warming and issues they believe are worth fighting for.

Students promoted solutions ranging from simple changes like eating more peanut butter and jelly instead of meat to futuristic technological changes.

Student MCs introduced the event, followed by student keynote speakers who inspired the audience by talking about how kids can make a difference in the world.

For the first half of the conference, students quickly set up table-top displays around the gymnasium, featuring their research on solutions to global climate change. Groups of students presented their research, evidence and solutions to community members and peers who stopped by.

At one table, students claimed that peanut butter and jelly can save the world. Their table-top presentation backed that idea with statistics on the acres of land and gallons of water that are saved by raising plant-based foods, rather than meat.

At another table, a group showed how cutting down on food waste can lead to reducing emissions from power plants.

Many students displayed research on technologies that reduce the need for power produced by burning fossil fuels, including LED lights that cut down on energy use and costs, and solar-powered "Luci Lights," that use the sun for lighting.

Some students chose solutions involving experimental technologies. One group looked into generating power from waves. Another group focused on solar roadways, an invention that aims to replace asphalt with hardened glass panels that generate solar power, heat up to melt winter ice and snow, eliminate pot hole type repairs, and display lighting instead of using paint to define lanes.

The research and evidence presented in the table-top presentations is the culmination of months of work in science classes, studying global climate-change causes and solutions.

During the second half of the conference, students led the audience to break-out sessions in the sixth-grade classroom wing.

Audience members chose a classroom, where they saw five presentations.  Student presenters introduced a cause they believe is worth fighting for, and showed a video they made to educate others about the issues. After showing their videos, students spoke about what the causes mean to them.

Students also wrote letters to elected officials requesting them to take actions. Altogether, 21 presentations were given on issues including: later start time for the middle school; more recycling opportunities and banning single-use plastic bags in Camden and Rockport; free college education; U.S. support for Syrian refugees; eliminating landfills and making smoking illegal.

The student breakout-session presenters applied for the role, auditioned and were chosen by a vote from their classmates.

Kids Conference for Change is the culmination of months of student work in science, language arts and social studies classes, as well as student clubs and committees.

Cameron Lawrence, left, chose to focus on solar roadways, while Mason Thomas was handing out a flyer to convince community members to "only ever use LEDs and fluorescent lights or else you are contributing to greenhouse gases around the world." (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
From left, Xiara Cox, Brandt Cloutier, and Nico Benjamin looked at coal-fired power plants as a cause of global warming and researched how reducing food waste can help. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
From left, Nathaniel Hayes, Ethan Ratner and Cole Thompson chose to research how energy produced by "wave power" can reduce the burning of fossil fuels that leads to global warming. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
From left, Emma McFarland, Sara Ackley Myah Espinosa featured Luci Lights, a solar light that can be used indoors, outside and in developing countries without electricity. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
How can peanut butter and jelly save the world? Alex Turner, left, and Bella Ward, right, explain that producing peanut butter and jelly uses less water and land, and creates less greenhouse emissions than raising meat. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Commununity members turned out for the Kids Conference for Change April 4 at Camden Rockport Middle School. Student MCs, including Ethan Ratner, at the podium, led the event. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Bella Ward, one of four keynote presenters, opened the conference with examples of kids who are making a difference in the world. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Zach Gilbert's video presentation offered reasons why landfills should be eliminated, including the fact that they attract rodents. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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