High School Climate Summit a Success

May 17th, 2019

With lively debates on possible solutions to global climate issues, about 85 high school students gathered at The Watershed Institute for the Next Gen Climate Summit on May 11.

Now in its third year, the summit educated and energized students about world climate issues, accompanied by tours showcasing the green infrastructure and other sustainable features of the LEED-Platinum Watershed Center.

Student leaders from Princeton Day School organized the event and were joined by partners from Princeton University’s Energy & Climate Scholars.


In a United Nations role-playing game, the students pretended they were global leaders and negotiated various strategies to prevent global warming from rising above 2.0 degrees Celsius in the next century. The hours-long discussions included the abilities, limitations, and perspectives of the Third World to First World nations that the students represented in the game.

The students instantly got to see the impact of their positions on future CO2 levels, sea water levels and other metrics through computerized data modeling that displayed their strategies.

“You just felt really hopeful watching the students engage on tough issues with a sense of commitment and a can-do spirit,” said Jeff Hoagland, Education Director at the Watershed.

Keynote speaker Lisa Pellegrino, Business Development Manager for Zero Waste at TerraCycle in Trenton, inspired the students with an enlightening presentation on the wise use of resources. Through her engaging presentation, Lisa described the hierarchy of the “Three Rs” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and challenged students to focus on a lifestyle that eliminates contributing to the waste stream.

The sustainability tour focused on the Watershed Center’s features, including building materials, green infrastructure, and rain gardens.


Students also were engaged in eco-focused activities during the summit. Some students foraged for wild edibles, while others met a diversity of insects and learned about the decline in insect populations.

Other students visited the pond and learned about the value of clean water while discovering an array of aquatic critters. Additionally, several students learned about the butterfly life cycles and even grabbed some nets to help stock the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House.

Liz Cutler, the PDS Sustainability Coordinator and Faculty adviser, added, “I loved watching the student leadership team who organized the Summit run the event like a well-oiled machine. They are passionate, high energy, and their leadership gives me hope for the future. It is young people like these who will find the solutions to the wickedly complex environmental problems that face us.”

Photo Credit:  PDS student  Yishi Wang.

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