The Miami Science Museum is one of only 10 museums nationwide that was selected to participate in the Smithsonian’s National Youth Summit on October 17th. The focus of this summit was contemporary environmental issues and the legacy (as well as lessons learned) from the Dust Bowl period in the 1930s. During this time, the boom of wheat farming (sometimes called the “great plow-up”) brought on a 10 year drought, showing that human activities can cause large scale environmental effects. Students from around the country participated in the summit via video/web conferencing, and had the opportunity to view clips from Ken Burns’ recently released “The Dust Bowl” documentary. They discussed what they learned from the Dust Bowl and shared ideas on how they can be protectors of their environments. The overarching theme of the event was to explore how to better understand the complexity of environmental issues and to learn what people can do today to avoid (or lessen) other environmental crises.
Each of the 10 selected museum sites also hosted a local town hall discussion with these themes in mind, but in the context of their own local environmental issues, especially as it relates to how humans can impact their environment and what the youth can do to help. The Miami Science Museum’s town hall focused on climate and conservation in South Florida environments. Local experts were invited to talk with local students for the event. These included Dawn Shireffs of the National Parks Conservation Association, Dr. Benjamin Kirtman of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera of the South Florida Water Management District, and Maria Beotegui of Biscayne National Park. Over 100 students from Centennial Middle School and Riviera Middle School that were present for the event now have some idea of how they can have a positive effect on their own environment.