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Climate Change Scenarios Scare, and Motivate, Kids

Third graders, including Isabella Narvaez, put on a puppet show to play out their  concerns about their future and the environment in Rosa Berrocal's Spanish class at Key School in Arlington, VA.
Third graders, including Isabella Narvaez, 8, left, put on a puppet show to play out their concerns about their future and the environment in Rosa Berrocal's Spanish class at Key School in Arlington, VA. (Jahi Chikwendiu - The Washington Post )

There was also last spring's effort by David Bronstein -- before he graduated and enrolled at St. John's -- to do 20-minute PowerPoint presentations on "the problem of global warming and how it's the challenge of our generation and what we need to do about it" to about 20 of Sherwood's government, English, social studies and philosophy classes.

"This message about global warming is so powerful," Bronstein says. "It gives me hope for the human race because people are responsive to it." He also encourages anxiety about the planet's future, comparing enviro-fears to "any suffering in your life: The first step is denial, and then there's a sense of doom, and then you have to get up and shake it off and change something."

Which is exactly what happened when 9-year-old Alyssa Luz-Ricca's mother returned from a business trip to Costa Rica with a T-shirt of a colorful frog and the words "Extinction is forever." Alyssa looked at the T-shirt and, she says, "I cried."

"She cried very hard," clarifies her mother, Karen Luz of Arlington.

"I don't like global warming," Alyssa continues, her eyes huge and serious behind her glasses, a stardust of freckles across her nose, "because it kills animals, and I like animals."

She dreams of solar-powered cars and has put a recycling basket for mail, office and school paper in the corner of her family's dining room. She made another recycling box for her third-grade English teacher's classroom at Key Elementary School and has persuaded her mother to start composting. At Key, she also organized an effort among her classmates to pick up playground trash at recess.

Marvel at any of her efforts, though, and she looks confused: Everyone should be doing all this -- and more -- to save the environment.

"I worry about it," says this girl who has yet to lose all her baby teeth, "because I don't want to die."


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