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IMAS will work with local students to create short videos that identify pandemic-related environmental changes


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Yelitza Garcia, IMAS Educator shown teaching a bird science workshop in the McAllen Public Utility BioZone, will be leading the Earth Optimism project this fall.
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Texas Border Business

McAllen, TX- The International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) in McAllen, Texas has been selected to work with local teens to produce videos about the environment, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution. Participants will be asked to identify the changes they have seen in their environments during the pandemic, whether in the community or at home. They will then learn to associate their observations with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, 17 interconnected goals which serve as a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable future for all. Teens will share their ideas for extending positive change into the future via two-minute videos to be entered into a global competition this Fall. Winning videos will be featured through the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism initiative in 2021. 

The goal of the video project is for Affiliates to work with teens in their communities to document changes to their local environments that they have observed during this unprecedented time and suggest ways to extend positive conservation actions. Teens will be encouraged to notice how their surroundings may be changing as a result of the pandemic—cleaner beaches, more wildlife sightings, more neighborhood gardens, or greater visibility of skylines in their cities—and consider the ways they can continue to support positive environmental changes. Youth-produced short videos will illuminate practices that teens from around the country want to carry forward, and that will inspire their peers to take action in the future, post-pandemic world. 

“It’s such an honor to be selected by the Smithsonian to participate in the Earth Optimism project that aligns perfectly with our educational objectives for learner-focused content and inclusive programming.” Ann Fortescue, IMAS President and Executive Director continued, “We’ve seen the passion and dedication teens have for current, critical issues through their projects for the IMAS Homeschool Science Fair. By engaging teens in exploring recent, local climate change through the Earth Optimism videos they create, IMAS fulfills its mission of bringing science and art learning together in dynamic, relevant ways that impact us directly, today and in the future.” 

An Affiliate of the Smithsonian since 1999, the IMAS was selected as one of only nine partners nationwide for the project, out of 210 Smithsonian Affiliates nationwide. One of the benefits of affiliation is the opportunity to collaborate with the Smithsonian Institution on educational projects like this one. The IMAS will host its Earth Optimism at IMAS program for 15 teens this October through December. 

“Young people around the world are discovering the power of short film to tell their stories, inspire hope and action in others, and connect with a global community of change agents to create a greener and healthier planet,” said Jennifer Brundage and Brian Coyle, the project’s directors at the Smithsonian Institution. “Teens are uniquely positioned to be leaders in environmental action given the threats to their future and their intrepid and optimistic approach to problem-solving. We are excited to collaborate with Affiliate partners to build this critical communication skill for the next generation of environmental leaders.”  

The teen videos project is part of the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism initiative which aims to change the focus from problem to solution in the dialogue around conservation and sustainability. The initiative is dedicated to sharing stories of small- and large-scale successful actions that can be replicated. This project is part of a nation-wide outreach effort to cultivate teen leaders around issues impacting the environment and is supported by a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. 

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“Promoting a deeper appreciation for the arts and sciences and integrating these as the core of our educational S. T. E. A. M. programming is an important part of IMAS fulfilling our mission in the RGV community,” stated Yelitza Garcia, IMAS Educator who will be leading the program. “Earth Optimism at IMAS builds on our successful youth programming. In the past, young attendees from our Girl Scouts, Scouts and Homeschool programming have been eager to share their passion for sustainability and conservation with us and with the RGV community. Teens who have participated in our past programming have expressed their interest in climate change and sustainability in songs, poetry, paintings, and even by building robot prototypes that clean up the oceans. Though the Lower RGV community has faced a great amount of unexpected adversity in the past four months, Earth Optimism seeks to encourage teens to seek light and hope within the darkness and to share their vision for a brighter, cleaner and greener future.”

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