What? Would you like to become a Climate Olympians and Ocean Leaders (COOL) School and help make your school, local community, and planet a healthier and happier place to live? How about joining a movement of young people taking action to stop climate pollution by creating sensible, non-polluting alternatives? What about powering your school with clean, renewable solar and/or wind energy… or growing food in your school garden… or replacing the use of throw-away food utensils in your cafeteria with reusable ones… or riding from home to school and back in clean electric buses… or helping stop polluting single-use plastics that are clogging our ocean? You can make a difference! The important thing is to form a team, identify a problem in your school/community, and get to work solving it. If you’d like to be part of the solution to stopping climate pollution and making y/our planet a healthier place to live, we invite you to become a COOL School and show how young people can change the world.

Why? Because climate change is harming our oceans and our lives. Our oceans are in peril as they absorb over 92% of the excess global warming heat resulting from our addiction to burning fossil fuels. And as our oceans warm and become more acidic, coral reefs, fish, and other marine life are dying. Phytoplankton (small green aquatic-plants floating in our oceans) produce over 50% of the oxygen we breath on planet Earth. If these oxygen-producing plants in our oceans die, we die. Climate change threatens all life on our beautiful planet, including our own. It’s time to become a Climate Olympian and do something about it. It’s your future. You have a powerful voice and an opportunity to make a difference.

The good news is that the SOLUTIONS to climate change and its impacts on our oceans are BIGGER than the problem. We have the knowledge, skill, technology, and engineering expertise to stop climate change now. Your school’s curriculum, including Environment, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (E-STEM), can prepare you to tackle climate change. And young people have an important role to play in saving our planet and creating a healthy, happy and sustainable future. Your life matters, and when you work in community with others, you can make a BIG DIFFERENCE! Your actions are an important piece of the solution to pollution. That’s where the COOL School program comes in.

How? The COOL School challenge provides a road map for how students and teachers work together to help solve a problem at your school (or in your community) – an issue that is also contributing to the larger climate change problem. By solving your local problem, you will join a movement of youth committed to solving the larger problem of climate change. The COOL School framework is a six-step process that will challenge you to think critically and creatively while working collaboratively to solve a real problem. David Orr says: “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.” Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

The six step COOL School process encourages student and teacher participation with students playing the primary role in the process and teachers and staff acting as advisors. The framework is flexible, enabling students to complete each step in a way that best suits their school and situation. It is recommended that steps 1 to 4 be done in order, but steps 5 and 6 can be done anytime. You are encouraged to implement each of the steps in a way that responds best to your unique situation. Let’s get to work in becoming a Climate Olympian and Ocean Leader (COOL) School.

Step One: Form a COOL School Action Team. This team formation could be initiated by a classroom, an academic department, a student organization such as an eco-club, a PTA, an all-school challenge spearheaded by a school administration, or other group. The A-Team could include representation from the whole school community, including students, teachers, facilities staff, parents, board members, and community members. Remember, students should play a leading role on the team with adults acting as mentors/advisors.

Guiding questions:
1. What is your shared vision?
2. How will you communicate with one another?
3. How is your team organized, and who does what?
4. Do you have representation from all key stakeholders?
5. Who is your A-team lead advisor/mentor?
6. When will you meet? Note: it is suggested that the A-team meet at least once per week.

Step Two: Conduct an Environmental Audit/Needs Assessment of your school and/or community. This is an essential research step for understanding environmental issues at your school/community and for identifying a key issue and project that you will undertake to address a specific need.

Guiding questions:
1. What environmental audit format would be best for your school/community?
2. How will the audit be administered?
3. When will you administer the audit?
4. To whom?
5. How will you summarize the results?

Step Three: Create a COOL School Action Plan. The action plan is based on your audit results and sets the goals of the project and timetable for completion. This is your road map for how you will transform a problem you have identified into a community solution. Make sure that key stakeholders are on board with the plan and feel invested in it.

Guiding questions:
1. What are the audit results?
2. What are the root causes of these results?
3. What strategies will you employ to solve the problem?
4. How are your strategies aligned with our vision?
5. What are your goals/objectives/activities?
6. How will you measure the goals (outcomes) of your project?

Step Four: Implement Action Plan and Monitor and Assess Progress. As you implement the action plan, make sure all stakeholders have a role to play. Ongoing monitoring and assessment of how things are going is key to success.

Guiding questions:
1. Who is doing what?
2. When are steps in the action plan to be accomplished?
3. How will you know the steps are completed satisfactorily? What is your criteria for success?
4. What is your process for dealing with problems/obstacles that arise?
5. How will you collect, display, and share data with all stakeholders?

Step Five: Link Action Plan to Existing Curriculum. It is important to link the Action Plan to your school curriculum. Students, teachers, and all stakeholders need to understand how the project is a solution to the problem identified in your research, how it ties to climate change and/or to the health of our oceans, how it connects to content areas in the curriculum, especially STEM curriculum, at applicable grade levels, and how it relates to being caring and responsible citizens of y/our community.

Guiding questions:
1. How is climate change and its impacts on the health of our oceans and local communities covered in applicable subjects, including STEM subject areas and grade levels?
2. How does our school Action Plan help to address climate change and its impacts on our oceans and our community?
3. What knowledge, skills and behaviors are students learning about civic responsibility and the role we can play in making our school, community, and planet healthier places to live?
4. For teachers: how are skills like critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication essential to this project? How do they dovetail with your curriculum?
5. How does service-learning dovetail with your school curriculum? Where? Why is this important?

Step Six: Celebrate Success. The action plan provides the road map on how to form an A-team, identify an environmental problem/need, implement and monitor a plan to address the problem/need, tie the climate change/ocean action to the school curriculum, and demonstrate how youth action can be an effective part of civic engagement and climate remediation and adaptation. Once the action plan has been implemented, and the issue resolved, it is important to celebrate success. Celebration reinforces the lessons learned about climate change and its impacts on y/our community, oceans and world; reinforces the cross-curricular content and processes learned in each subject area and grade level; and reinforces how youth can make a positive difference in our world.

Guiding questions:
1. How do we celebrate our success in a way that honors the contribution of all stakeholders?
2. How do we celebrate our success in a way that reinforces the content learned across the school curriculum?
3. How do we celebrate success in a way that reinforces the processes we employed in the project?
4. How do we build lessons learned into the fabric of our ongoing school curriculum?
5. What is our next project?