Curious by Nature: More Students in Action

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Creator of Curious by Nature, Alicia Carter is a visual journalist whose work — featured in outlets like National Geographic and The Atlantic — focuses on the intersection of environmental issues and cultural resilience. While earning her MA in Media and Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she worked with S’well to capture the story of four students as they went through the North Carolina Science Fair process during the pandemic. The documentary shows the perseverance of students who are passionate about science and the planet — plus the amazing role they play in building and uplifting their communities. 

Inspired by Zorabella, Uma, Kaitlyn and Lauren, plus John and Nicole, we wanted to understand how other students are finding ways to stay #CuriousByNature. So we tapped our friends, including some at UNICEF USAa powerful advocate for climate change to protect children, to learn even more from students who are changing the world with their curiosity and actions.

CURIOUS BY NATURE Q&A

DEVISHI, UNICEF NATIONAL COUNCIL MEMBER,
CHICAGO, IL

HOW HAS COVID IMPACTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SCHOOL? WITH NATURE?
Covid has definitely caused me to be less engaged with school and with nature. The pandemic caused students across the country to adapt to a new style of learning, which presented many challenges to our relationship with nature.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKEAWAY FROM CURIOUS BY NATURE?
My biggest takeaway from Curious By Nature was that young people have the power to innovate and build solutions that revolutionize the world – all by being curious of their surroundings. Curiosity is a trait that is seriously underestimated, and I feel inspired to pursue and be curious about topics I am interested in as well!

WHAT KEEPS YOU CURIOUS?
Sustainability challenges definitely keep me curious. The field of climate change is incredibly complex and has so many moving parts. Finding solutions to problems like water scarcity, emissions, and waste is what keeps me curious and ready to learn new things.

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN ADVOCACY WORK?
Advocacy work may sound difficult, but anyone can get involved! My first time participating in UNICEF’s Advocacy Day was when I was 14 years old, and it was an incredible experience!

WHAT ARE SOME EASY FIRST STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO HAVE AN IMPACT?
Taking a step to stop climate change can be as easy as recycling, composting, reducing energy usage in your home, or educating your parents on why climate matters to you. Those steps may seem small, but they make a huge impact!

 

CYNTHIA, JUNIOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
WASHINGTON, DC

HOW HAS COVID IMPACTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SCHOOL? WITH NATURE? 
The pandemic has exacerbated all forms of inequality, and it has allowed many in my school community to not only appreciate the value and privilege receiving an education but also recognize the extent to which certain issues such as unemployment and access to healthcare run deep in our country. With regards to our environment, in some ways we have watched how the planet healed at the beginning of the pandemic, and in others we have seen a decline in people prioritizing climate justice. On a personal level, I have taken more initiative to explore trails at home that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to visit and conducted more research on environment and sustainability-related topics; in that sense, I now have a better understanding of the world around me.

YOU’RE INVOLVED IN SO MANY PROJECTS, WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER STUDENTS WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN ADVOCACY WORK?
Get involved in any way you can, and always use your voice. Often, people come out of passion for the issues and stay for the people; to that end, prioritize inclusivity, and value those around you. Know your why, and stay true to it. Your opinion as a young person matters, and you hold a unique perspective that no other generation has—and you are the greatest stakeholder tomorrow in what happens today.

WHAT ARE SOME EASY FIRST STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO HAVE AN IMPACT?
On a microscopic level, take small actions to lower your carbon footprint—use reusable items such as water bottles, take shorter showers, invest in second-hand and sustainable fashion, and conserve energy when possible. As well, advocate for the prioritization of our planet to lawmakers and in courts, and challenge your friends to do the same.

 

SHUBI, SOPHOMORE, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, BLOOMINGTON
BLOOMINGTON, IN

HOW HAS COVID IMPACTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SCHOOL? WITH NATURE? 
COVID-19 has shifted my relationship with nature because it’s allowed me to find new ways of de-stressing during the pandemic. Because of virtual learning at school and social isolation from friends, I found myself leaning on nature for comfort. By being outdoors by hiking and camping, I’ve taken advantage of the local campgrounds and state parks while complying with social distancing and COVID safety regulations. After being socially isolated and quarantined, I’ve found a renewed comfort in nature and outdoor activities, which have relaxed me during stressful times.  

YOU’RE INVOLVED IN SO MANY PROJECTS, WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER STUDENTS WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN ADVOCACY WORK?
For the past few years, we’ve seen a wave of student-led grassroots movements, where the youth voice is at the forefront of political change. Now more than ever before, young adults are spearheading climate change and human rights initiatives across the country and students’ voices are being heard! The first step in being an advocate for change is to be civically engaged by speaking out about local injustice and environmental issues happening in your own communities. Although tackling issues like climate change, global warming, and environmental sustainability seem overwhelming, advocacy always starts locally. Remember — as an educated and locally engaged constituent, your voice has power! So, reach out to your senators and representatives by mail, phone, and e-mail and show your support at local rallies to build a community that will also activate around the issues you’re passionate about. 

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS CHILDREN AND COMMUNITIES AROUND THE WORLD. WHAT ARE SOME EASY FIRST STEPS WE CAN TAKE TO HAVE AN IMPACT?
Issues related to climate change can seem distant and overwhelming to tackle, but change starts by taking small steps locally. You can start by reducing your own carbon footprint by shopping sustainably, tele-commuting to work, and composing your food waste! You can also educate and employ your local communities with the tools they need to be energy efficient, reduce waste, and use eco-friendly products. Another easy way to have an impact is by volunteering at your state parks to make sure that your local communities can maintain safe, clean, and sustainable natural resources and campgrounds!

KAAVYA,14 AND RISHI, 13
NORTH CAROLINA

YOU PARTICIPATED IN THE NORTH CAROLINA SCIENCE FAIR. WHAT WAS YOUR RESEARCH FOCUSED ON?
Our project tests the effectiveness of using daphnia, the common water flea, as water quality detectors. We used them to measure raw and diluted runoff water samples from various locations. Many accurate water quality testers are expensive and not accessible to everyone, so daphnia can be used as an inexpensive preliminary tester.

HOW DID COVID-19 IMPACT YOUR RESEARCH PROJECT?
Covid-19 impacted our project because it made it more difficult to communicate and discover other science fair projects. It also limited the number of available resources.

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT?
Winning first at the NCSAS State Competition.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GET INVOLVED IN ADVOCACY WORK?
Some advice we would like to share is to continue to persevere throughout your project and stay curious about science. Throughout your project experience, you will run into many difficulties, and the most important thing is to keep persevering. We also want to say that during your project do not stress if your hypothesis is wrong because you still learn something through your project.