Spurred on by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, a group of local climate activist organized a school-wide walkout at Clinton Public School on Sept. 27.
Seventh-graders Leanne Melvin, Grace Allen and Ava Dawe organized their classmates in joining the global climate strike that occurred in communities across Canada.
“I saw Greta’s speech to the United Nations and heard about the problems facing our Earth and decided that since it is our planet we need to do something to save it,” said Allen.
The walkout occurred at 2 p.m. following a climate strike initiative held in Goderich and in which the three youth organizers had participated. The organizers hopped into a car driven by one of their grandmothers following the Goderich demonstration ended and returned to Clinton to rally their classmates against climate change.
Chants of “Save the Earth” and “Save the turtles” echoed across the schoolyard in between motorists honking their horns to show support as the roughly 50 students took over the school’s front lawn.
“Everyone made their own signs and the teachers let us use some of our class time to make the sings so we could share how we felt about the need to help the Earth,” said Melvin.
Principal Luise Hoffman said it is important for the students to know they can stand up for what they believe in and that their voices can be heard. Hoffman added it would not have been the right thing to do for teachers and administration to bar the students from participating in the demonstration if the students truly felt opinionated about the issue at hand.
To protect the students during the hour-long protest, staff set up a safe zone outside the school.
“The future generations are the ones who are going to inherit the Earth so we need to be the ones who are out here making sure that the Earth is still available for us to live on in the future,” said Dawe.
The climate strike follows in the wake of a student-led walkout from high school students a week prior.
In addition to the walkouts in Clinton students at Seaforth Public School walked out of classes. The Goderich rally was attended by hundreds of people.
Allen, Dawe and Melvin said they are not just doing this as a one-time event to get out of class, rather they are using this as a platform to continue their advocacy for the environment and will keep encouraging their classmates to think about their impact on the planet.