The annual ReFrame documentary film festival from January 26 to February 3 boasts over 60 international and local films. The local film Rewilding the Classroom, directed by local educator Cam Douglas and filmmaker Rodney Fuentes, is one of the many compelling stories playing during the festival and features young people from the Peterborough region.
Youth featured in Rewilding took part in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board’s integrated curriculum four-credit program based out of Trent University. This semester-long fall opportunity, called the Youth Leadership in Sustainability (YLS) program, involves unique environmental education opportunities for young people.
Amy Siegel, creative director of ReFrame, introduced me to two students from the YLS program as well as program director Cam Douglas, to shine a light on what it meant to be a part of this opportunity.
Here’s what they had to say:
Aisling MacQuarie (16 years old), Grade 11, Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School
Aisling was excited to tell me about how the YLS program created an atmosphere where they were able to strengthen their leadership skills, despite them already participating in confidence-building hobbies like choir, theatre, and rugby.
What made you choose to enrol in YLS?
I was told through word-of-mouth that this was an amazing experience. The hands-on style of learning in YLS is an untraditional method of teaching that I quickly came to enjoy.What stood out to you while being part of the program?
Activities in YLS are a lot more empowering than reading facts about the city on our screens. As an example, we were able to bike around Peterborough for a field trip, seeing how we can make our transportation infrastructure more accessible for the community.
Did you face any challenges this semester?
One learning curve was leaving your comfort zone and your day-to-day routine for something more unpredictable. Our teachers encouraged our understanding of our comfort zone. They taught us that when we step a bit outside of the zone, we can do a lot of beneficial work.
How did you see you and your peers change through this semester?
This year, our class was able to chat with the Peterborough mayor about creating a local biodiversity framework based on what we learned attending COP15, the global biodiversity conference in Montréal. I noticed that many of my peers, although nervous at the start, were able to have the courage to speak at both events.
Noelle Bowley (16 years old), Grade 11, St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School
Noelle explained that she is an avid runner and loves being outdoors. She reflected that her experience with YLS was above-and-beyond. Sustainability has been ingrained in her lifestyle from a young age. She noticed that her peers in YLS have a similar mentality.
Do you think it would be a challenge for those who haven’t grown up living sustainably or haven’t gone through something like YLS to pick up this knowledge?
It would be difficult but not impossible. Being more sustainable is not often the easiest option out there. If you didn’t have an upbringing in making sustainable choices, it would probably have to completely change your perception of what you do.
What was the YLS experience like for you?
It was amazing to have community experiences throughout this program. For example, we met individuals protecting Catchacoma Forest while collecting data about the carbon sequestration of old-growth forests in the Kawartha Highlands. I’ve met knowledgeable community members and made great memories from this experience.
What is something you want people to know about Rewilding?
I think youth need to watch this documentary, so they can know they can make a difference too. Even though sometimes talking about the environment can be doom-and-gloom, it’s not always like that. If young people knew that their choices make a big impact, they may be more likely to change their actions or do what they can.
Cam Douglas, YLS Founder and Teacher/Coordinator
How does it feel to be running YLS for five consecutive years?
I am grateful to work with 20 to 25 young people and countless support volunteers and community experts each year. The student’s energy as they come to class is what inspires me to keep going. Every day, the students encourage me to challenge what I know.
What inspired you to work on Rewilding with (filmmaker) Rodney?
I can see Rewilding as a tool that will hopefully broaden conversations about how environmental education can be portrayed in the classroom and curriculum.
What made this year’s program special?
It was beautiful to help bring local environmental impact to an international stage. When you have your eye on a goal like taking young people to COP15 or coordinating a novel integrated education course, it can bring people together in subtle but profound ways.
Applications are now open for students to apply to the Youth Leadership in Sustainability program for next fall. View the YLS program website at yls.green for more details (http://yls.green).
Rewilding the Classroom is a 15-minute documentary that GreenUP is excited to sponsor in this year’s ReFrame Film Festival. The film is included in ReFrame’s “Confronting the Climate Crisis” shorts program, which also includes the documentaries In Love WIth A Problem, Haulout, and Imalirijit.
Audiences can purchase ticket packs of 5, 8, or 10, or a virtual festival pass for those who want to take in all the films. Pay-what-you-can standalone tickets are also available for every film. Purchase your ReFrame tickets at reframefilmfestival.ca/festival/passes-tickets/.