Students came together in Norfolk to test their ‘resilience strategies.’ Here’s what that’s all about

The expo was hosted at Nauticus. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Elizabeth River Project)
The expo was hosted at Nauticus. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Elizabeth River Project)

NORFOLK — Educators from the Elizabeth River Project spent the last year working with students from a dozen area schools to discover what they call ‘hope through action.’

The students planned and carried out projects to help their schools and communities become more resilient to rising seas and other changing climate conditions, officials said in a news release.

About 100 student delegates from the schools showcased their results April 6, at the Elizabeth River Project’s first “Youth Resilience Expo” at Nauticus.

One group of students tested multiple types of solar cookers to bake nachos and pizza.

The students now estimate that if everyone at Waters Middle School, their Portsmouth school, used their preferred solar cooker only once a year, that would save as much energy as turning off 720 light bulbs for an hour, officials said.

“They also really like that it gives people a chance to cook and boil water in a natural disaster,” said Marlee Fuller-Morris of the Elizabeth River Project.

Keynote speaker Tom Clynes, a contributing photojournalist to National Geographic, spoke to the students about continuing resiliency efforts with his talk, “The Art of Audacity,” featuring his documentaries of unlikely environmental heroes around the globe.

Other projects range from a “mini rain garden” at Taylor Elementary School in Norfolk to Wilson High School students in Portsmouth who researched solar phone chargers and have been selling them to fellow students and even their school superintendent, officials said.

In preparation for their projects, many of the students also undertook “sea level resilience” field investigations aboard the Elizabeth River Project’s Dominion Energy Learning Barge and Paradise Creek Nature Park, and planted wetlands they grew in the classroom, officials said.

A Youth Resilience Roundtable convened by Elizabeth River Project recommended an annual Youth Resilience Expo to inspire and reward students for their actions.

Funds for the program come from grants to Elizabeth River Project from NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Grant Program, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation and Dollar Tree Foundation.

Student resilience awards were sponsored by the Rotary Club of Norfolk.

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