It’s clear climate change champions are the young. Local student Nelly Kohlgrüber feels their sense of urgency.

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Feeling an increasing sense of anxiety in her science courses, combined with the current state of ambivalence in our nation towards science and fact, not to mention the drought, fires and flooding California has experienced over the past few years — Nelly felt the need to take action. But how?

“Many of us can’t vote and we don’t have millions of dollars to pour into issues; we’ve barely made it through Calculus…… and yet I had to do something,” says Nelly.

“I decided to enlist the help of young people and to teach them about how to incorporate change in their lives in the only way I knew how; art. This was my chance to bring my passion for art and the environment together and raise awareness.”

Nelly pitched local elementary schools and found enthusiasm with Seaside’s Highland School principal Hecate Rosewood. Ms. Rosewood was instrumental in encouraging the project and applauded Nelly’s courage to take on such an endeavor. Recruiting the help of aftercare leader, Alejandrina Poole, and those with enthusiasm (and who had finished their homework), the group began collecting, cleaning and sorting single use plastics for materials.

“Together we are creating “The Great Wave of Change,” a 12 by 8 ft. outdoor mural made entirely from waste. The students are becoming aware of the amount of plastic in our lives and how much they throw away every day through constructing our mural and exchanging stories. We talk about alternatives to dumping plastic in landfills and how to shop smarter. All the while they show me firsthand the positive effects of learning through doing; as my preschool teacher taught us; if it’s not in the hand, it’s not in the head.”

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“Climate change epitomizes an issue where the young can teach the old. Those in power now will be long gone by the time the worst consequences of climate change occur, and young people will be left to bear the brunt of the chaos. My hope is that through this brief exposure to environmental issues at such a young age, the students might become ocean advocates and use their newfound knowledge to educate others. Hopefully I the project also it shows how individuals and grassroots efforts, combined with education, can have a positive impact. In other words, it’s not hopeless.”

Working sometimes weekly, afterschool and through holiday breaks, the project has taken approximately 9 months from inception to completion.

Installation of the wall is planned for March 31, 2019.

Nelly Kohlgrüber

Senior, Carmel High School

Carmel, CA



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