Nature’s Secrets

Best holiday treasure may be energy of youth

December 16, 2012 

Meg Lowman is an N.C. State University professor and forest canopy expert who directs the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciencesa¢,Ǩ,Ñ¢s Nature Research Center. Online: www.canopymeg.com.

The new Nature Research Center in downtown Raleigh is a world-first in many ways – cutting-edge scientists working in glass labs where the public can see their activities, unprecedented global outreach of science discoveries through the multi-media SECU Daily Planet theater, myriad citizen science participatory programs for the public, and lots of hands-on, interactive exhibits that teach visitors “how we know” (not just “what we know”) about science.

Another first of the NRC is its youth leadership. Most institutions operate with a board of directors consisting of business leaders and philanthropists, but the NRC has a leadership team of teenagers. The Teen Advisory Board serves as a voice of the museum, providing insights to programming that will inspire the next generation of scientists. They help select speakers and content of Science Cafes, and offer advice on videos and other educational media.

These 20 teens represent 13 high schools in the Triangle, providing diverse perspectives on science.

On Dec. 13, these teens hosted professor E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s leading biologists, who spoke at the NRC and directed his comments specifically to teens. As part of their preparations for this unique opportunity, the teens discussed environmental priorities and were asked, “If you had a magic wand, what environmental challenge would you solve in the next decade?”

Here are a few of their answers, which will reassure all of us that the world is in good hands with our next generation:

Kabir from Chapel Hill High School: “Deforestation, specifically of the Amazon rain forest.”

Rishi from Jordan High School: “Dinosaur extinction or global warming.”

Chichi from Green Hope High School: “How do I choose just one? Save the trees, the fisheries, tragedy of the commons? I would want to do it all!”

Charles from East Chapel Hill: “Probably the increase in greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, because that is the root of ocean acidification and global warming, and could have devastating effects on the future.”

Hannah from Saint Mary’s School: “I would solve the increasing problem of destruction of the natural environment in various parts of the world.”

Jennifer from Athens Drive High School: “I would use my magical wand to prevent all future oil spills. My magic power would make sure people drilled very safely and not in nature reserves.”

On behalf of Nature’s Secrets column and the Teen Advisory Board at the NRC, may your holidays be full of nature!

Meg Lowman, an N.C. State University professor and forest canopy expert, directs the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Nature Research Center. Online: www.canopymeg.com.

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