FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Ashlyn Bennington, a student at Fairmont Senior High School, won first place in a statewide competition to create a video public service announcement about climate change. The competition was held by the West Virginia Climate Change Professional Development project. Ty Eller won second place and Amy Vest won third place for the video competition, both from Wyoming East High School.
Kathryn Williamson is a professor at West Virginia University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy as well as the Principal Investigator of the project. She said this is the first year that WVCCPD held the contest.
“The goals for the PSAs are to empower leadership in teachers and students in West Virginia to talk about climate change, particularly the science and the solutions, and to broadcast their messages wherever we can,” explained Williamson.
The competition included a series of three professional developments for teachers. Brittany Bauer, a science teacher at Wyoming East High School, said she was initially worried about what the community might think of the project, but she found that other teachers at her school also wanted to participate.
“Part of what we heard in our professional development across the board with the teachers is, we’re scared to bring this up,” Bauer recalled, “We were scared about how the community is going to react, and so there was some apprehension with me.”
Bauer paired up with a speech teacher at the school, and they worked together to teach the students about climate change and how to communicate an effective message.
“But really, [the students] were left to their own devices to use whatever software they wanted, so really, the students did it all. It was kind of a rushed process because you had these two PSAs and you had one month to get it all done, so I was just more blown away about the initiative my students had and that they spent their own time–their own weekends revising these things,” said Bauer.
Bauer’s class had multiple winners, and one of them, Ty Eller, won first place in the audio contest. Eller said that winning was exciting, but he really enjoyed the creative aspect of the competition.
“What really engaged me in this activity was that, not only was this for a good cause and we’re learning about [climate change], but we’re getting that creative output. We’re getting the opportunity to be creative and some of us, like myself, we like messing around with the video stuff and the audio stuff and we got to tweak that and make it our own and record it ourselves and get creative with that so that’s what made it fun to me.”
Bauer said she hopes that her students’ PSAs make people take a second look at climate change.
“There were no complaints. Everyone was like, yes, we want to do this, and to represent southern West Virginia in something that should be a scientific issue that people have made into a political issue, I’m extremely proud and really impressed,” said Bauer.
You can watch all the winning PSAs and read more about climate change by going to WVCCPD’s website.