Students from preschool to Grade 8 join demand for global climate action.
Inspired by 16 year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future Global Climate Strikes, Willow students led a Climate March on campus today. Students, teachers, and parents also protested in the Free Speech Zone near the Clarence Dillon Public Library in Bedminster this afternoon. Students’ posters highlighting the issues most important to them will be displayed on The Willow School fence on Pottersville Road.
Today’s march is the culmination of a week’s worth of developmentally appropriate classroom activities and conversations about climate change for students in preschool through Grade 8. Students read and shared stories, engaged in their own climate research, and watched Greta’s speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
The Climate March is also an extension of Willow’s unwavering commitment to creating a more sustainable world. Since Willow was founded in 2000, it has been the school’s mission to teach students how to develop ethical relationships with each other and the natural world.
“Since the school was founded, Willow has confronted the enormous responsibility to create a more sustainable world head-on,” said Willow’s Head of School Francisco Ayala. “Our campus is intentionally crafted to reduce our impact on the environment, and our students are taught from preschool to eighth grade that they have the ability to create positive change in their communities. This is such a special opportunity to highlight how even young people, when following their passions, can solve our most complex and critical issues globally and can make a significant impact in their communities and the greater world.”
Willow students were introduced to Greta Thunberg earlier this September, when Social Studies teacher Liliana Lisbao shared videos of Greta during Willow’s all-school Morning Gathering, a time when Willow students come together to thoughtfully start the day. Lisbao spoke of Greta as a role model for students since she not only cares deeply about climate change, she is also using her voice to inspire others to take action around the world, while making sure that she lives her values by reducing her own environmental impact.
“Greta is a special person because she found something that she is really passionate about, and she inspired all of us, collectively, to really think about how we affect the earth,” Ayala said to students at Morning Gathering today before the march. Ayala asked students what virtues Greta was using from Willow’s Virtues Program with her Climate Strikes. Responsibility, courage, perseverance, and justice were all discussed.
“This is one issue that Greta is really passionate about, so she put a ton of energy, perseverance, and courage into bringing people together to work to drive change,” Ayala said this morning. “But there are lots of different issues in the world that need fixing, where we can use our virtues to try and address them and make the world a better place for one another.”
Ayala ended his Morning Gathering address with a quote from Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“This is what Greta is doing, and that is something I know all of you will do,” Ayala said. Watch Willow students march below:
Willow’s History of Commitment to Sustainability
Since its establishment in 2000, Willow has served as a national leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship. Its Schoolhouse Building became the first school building in the United States to achieve USGBC LEED Gold certification in 2003. Willow’s second construction project, the Barn, became one of only seven other structures in the nation, and first in New Jersey to receive LEED Platinum status in 2007. Willow was awarded the first NJ Green Ribbon School Award by the US Department of Education in 2012. Its Health, Wellness, and Nutrition Center (HWNC) achieved the first Living Building Challenge certification in New Jersey from the International Living Future Institute in 2017. Willow’s HWNC is now one of only 14 certified Living Buildings worldwide and is also the largest certified Living Building at any school in the United States.
More than our buildings, Willow’s commitment to sustainability extends into the classroom, making a powerful impression on students. When children are part of a school community that tackles complex problems, they acquire the confidence and compassion to be effective agents of change. Willow graduates stand apart from their peers because they can move beyond caring about important issues, to using their knowledge, understanding, and skills to do something about them.