Groundswell of Youth Engaged and Ready for Action

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Image: Josh Miller Photography

A theater full of students cheered and clapped before settling into their chairs for the 16th annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival (WSFF) School Program last week.

More than 2,000 students from our local community and neighboring counties participate in the WSFF School Program at the Don Baggett and Del Oro theaters. Excited chatter gave way to laughs and “woahs” as students watched the trailer for this year’s WSFF “Groundswell” selection of films. Most of the classes opted to walk from their school to the theatre for the school program – a great way to reduce their carbon footprint!

The WSFF School Program offers three developmentally appropriate programs (K-4, 5-8, and 9-12) with carefully selected films, accompanied by film-specific, standards-based lessons for classroom enrichment. This year’s films were an assortment of animation, adventure, documentary, and visual/musical narratives. Film topics included climate change, biodiversity, plastic marine debris, conservation, and socioecological empowerment – many of the films were created by students.

Student filmmakers from Maui Huliau Foundation. Image: Maui Huliau Foundation

Students on Thursday’s viewing were treated to special guests Ka’imi Kaleleiki and Chloe Chin from Maui Huliau Foundation, who flew all the way in from the Hawaiian Islands to present their film “Rising Tide”, which was selected for the Student Filmmaker Award.

In addition to the weekday programs organized through teachers and administrators, youth were offered several other engagement opportunities. Both Thursday evening’s family-friendly 3-D films and Saturday Morning’s Kids Films were sold out. Children who attended the Saturday morning session had the opportunity to meet Flo – the iconic mascot of SYRCL.

Saturday afternoon of the WSFF the Youth v Government Environmental Workshop was held at the Off-Center Stage. Youth from around the country have filed a constitutional climate change lawsuit against the US federal government. Christi Cooper, the filmmaker documenting the case, Meg Ward, Our Children’s Trust Communications and Youth Engagement Director, and Aji Piper, a student plaintiff, presented a compelling workshop for children of all ages.

Meg Ward, Our Children’s Trust, Aji Piper, Student filmmaker and Howard Levine, Mayor of Grass Valley. Image: Juan Diego Reyes

Attendees viewed storytelling through film, listened to advocacy shared through song, and discovered ways in which they can become active in the youth climate change movement. Additionally, participants had the opportunity to interact with Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine and discuss how climate change affects our home communities. Mayor Levine encouraged all to present their problems and solutions to their City Council members and local representatives.

A big thank you to Nevada Union High School, Sierra Theaters, and the Center for the Arts for their partnership. If you are interested in student and youth film programming for next year’s festival, contact Megan Learned, River Education Manager at (530) 265-5961 Ex. 218 or megan@yubariver.org.

Image: Josh Miller Photography
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