South Orangetown Central School District

This year at Cottage Lane Elementary School, teachers and administrators worked together to create a vision for student-led assemblies, which began in November, to help promote the school’s Word of the Month.

“Respect” is the Word of the Month at Cottage Lane Elementary School and fifth-graders in Kottie Christie-Blick’s class and Kathleen Early’s class worked hard to promote respect for each other, and all living things, in the April student-led, school-wide assembly. With Earth Day (April 22) just a few weeks away, part of the assembly focused on respecting Earth, and helping it to keep nature in balance. The students decided to link “respect” for Earth to slowing down climate change, a topic they began to explore earlier this year through science lessons on how Earth’s systems stay in balance.

Students collaborated with Tanya Witek, a class parent, to compose an original piece of music about empowering kids to speak up about the importance of slowing down climate change. Ms. Christie-Blick explained that it was like writing an essay: Students began with an idea, kept adding to it, revising, and collaborating with each other. “All kids gave ideas. We all contributed to the composition,” explained Lukas.

Their collaborative work, “Kids Against Climate Change,” was named after the website Ms. Christie-Blick created with students several years ago, and tells the story of a beautiful world that becomes threatened by the environmental effects of pollution and is then restored through the actions of children. Their assembly was well-received by schoolmates; a video of their performance is posted on the Kids Against Climate Change website.

Learning about the effects of pollution has inspired the students to become advocates for the environment–and not just at school. “We’re looking to slow down climate change,” said Justin, adding that adults play a key role in preserving the environment. In fact, the classes traveled to Albany last week to meet with New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, a member of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation committee. Assemblywoman Jaffee said that she understood their concerns about clean air and the need to slow down climate change, and pledged to continue working for them.

Ms. Christie-Blick was proud of the students for using their science knowledge, writing skills, and musical talent to share important information with their community. “Kids like these make me optimistic about the future,” she noted.

“We are proud of all the students that have led assemblies this school year,” added Principal Karen Ramirez and Assistant Principal Rob Schliessman. “This is a great moment of pride for our students and these assemblies improve our school community. We are excited for what’s to come from our student-led assemblies…they are engaging to listen to and to watch!”

Here are meaningful actions that students recommend for helping to protect the Earth:

  • Recycle
  • Use reusable bags and water bottles
  • Unplug chargers and power off devices when they’re not in use
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room
  • Carpool and use bicycles and public transportation
  • Vote for elected officials who are committed to protecting the environment
  • Invest in solar panels and electric vehicles

Students in classroom with instruments Students with Assemblywoman Jaffee