With maps, drawings, photographs and interactive displays demonstrating the deleterious effects of climate change covering nearly inch of Fayette Elementary School’s library, you might have mistaken the room for an office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
It wasn’t, of course. Rather, it was a museum created by 11 sixth-graders in the North School District’s WINGS (Widening Interests and New Experiences for Gifted Students) program. The young people worked for months to install their exhibits, many of them spanning from floor to ceiling, and last Thursday they put them on display for their parents and fellow Fayette students.
WINGS teacher Wendy Leavin said she hit upon the idea for the museum last year. “I love museums myself,” she said. “I felt it was a way [for the students] to authentically share what they have learned with the rest of the school.”
Leavin chose climate change, or global warming, as the museum’s theme because it is the largest and longest-term issue facing the younger generation today, she said. And, Leavin continued, “There are so many pieces to this puzzle. If you could understand the ecology of climate change, you could understand any complex system.”
Julia Manson and Jessica Zhang, both 12, noted that humans have sent increasing amounts of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began circa 1750. Climate change works like this: Visible sunlight passes through the atmosphere, striking the Earth. It is then re-radiated back into space in the form of infrared heat. Greenhouse gases, produced by power plants, factories, vehicles and farms, trap infrared heat, warming the planet, causing glacial ice to melt and raising sea levels.