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King Students Earn Key to City, Praise, Thanks for Climate March

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King Students Earn Key to City, Praise, Thanks for Climate March
Posted on 12/04/2015
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Portland Mayor Michael Brennan told about 400 King Middle School students who marched down Congress Street Dec. 4 to call for action on climate change: “You are my motivation.” The mayor also gave students a key to the city for their efforts.

Brennan, addressing the marchers in front of City Hall, said the city is already taking steps to address climate change and hopes to become the site of the largest solar farm in any city in the state within about a year. The students inspire him and other adults to keep working on the problem, the mayor said.

Brennan handed the city key to Portland Public Schools Interim Superintendent Jeanne Crocker, who waved it aloft and told students she wanted them to know “how proud we are of you at this moment.” Crocker praised the students for all the effort and creativity they put into learning about climate change and organizing the march. Now, she told them, “Your charge is to continue.”

The students marched with signs and banners from their school near Deering Oaks Park to City Hall. Their march took place as world leaders attend a United Nations climate conference in Paris and students said they wanted to send a message to those at the conference that they want to see real action on combatting climate change.

The march was planned and organized by King Middle School York eighth-graders and about 300 other students at the school joined them in marching. As they walked, students called out chants demanding change on climate change “now.”

When they reached City Hall, a number of students gave short speeches or read poems and one eighth-grader, Jonathan Rugema, sang a song he wrote about climate change. Jonathan, who is a very recent immigrant to Portland from Burundi, said his song’s message is: “We are the ones to save the natural world.”

Eighth-grader Siri Pierce led off the comments, telling the crowd gathered at City Hall that students were there “not to celebrate but to motivate.” She said some adults are doing their best to confront climate change but students need to take action because “eventually the problem will fall to us.”

Representatives from the Natural Resources Council of Maine and 350 Maine, a group building a grassroots network across the state to address the crisis of climate change, also spoke, noting that climate change is already impacting Maine, in such ways as warming the Gulf of Maine. They praised the students on leading the way to demand action.

Students suggested ways that Portlanders could make a difference, by doing such things as using LED light bulbs, walking and biking when possible, buying local and turning down the heat.

“Our future is in your hands,” said eighth-grader Satchel Butterfield.

King is a model school in the EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning) network. The York eighth-graders are on “an expedition called “ReThink, ReCharge, ReAct,” and we have been studying the devastating effects of climate change on the ocean, as well as which energy sources and individual lifestyle choices can best sustain our planet and lessen climate change,” language arts teacher Catherine Paul said.