These fourth graders penned climate change poetry inspired by our coverage

The World
Two adults sit at the front of an elementary school classroom as children's heads fill the bottom of the frame.

We hear from a lot of listeners of The World and visitors to our website and social media feeds.

But those comments are usually brief, often anonymous, and it can be hard to know if what we do every day really makes an impact out there beyond our studios.

Well, a little while ago, we got a note from a listener that knocked our socks off.

It came from John Rogers, a fourth-grade teacher at Curtis Guild Elementary School, a public school in East Boston.

“Thought this would make you happy to hear what an impact your news program is having on the youth of our city,” Rogers wrote.

The note included a picture of a young girl named Ana Camile Valdez and a copy of a poem she’d written.

A child's illustrations decorate the border of a page that is a poem about the Amazon

Fourth grader Ana Camile Valdez created this poem after hearing about a story The World did about climate change. 


Courtesy of Curtis Guild Elementary School

And the story of Ana’s poem begins with The World.

The class has a morning meeting every day. There’s a daily greeting, a quote that the kids will discuss and a quick game.

And Rogers also shares news of the school and news of the world.

One morning back in October, he talked about a story he’d heard on The World the night before.

It was about the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, and how scientists are finding that climate change is stressing the forest, and maybe making it less able to absorb carbon dioxide pollution. And how that, in turn, might be making climate change even worse.

A young girl holds a photo of her poem with her illustrations on it in her school classroom and smiles at the camera

Fourth grader Ana Camile Valdez poses with the poem she wrote about climate change. 


Steven Davy/The World

After the meeting, the class got on with its day. No further mention of the news, the Amazon or climate change.

But the next morning, Ana’s poem appeared on Rogers’ desk.

He already knew how great his kids were but this kind of stunned him.

“I felt really impressed that a student took that initiative herself," Rogers said. "[We were] heavy into a poetry unit … but to take it upon herself to write a reflection poem that talks about global warming and standing up for the environment. And it was this beautiful poem about how we have to act now and that the future is ours and we have to make a difference.”

That’s when Rogers sent us his note and invited us to visit his class.

A young girl sits at a school table and reads while a man holds a microphone next to her and records her reading.

Ana Camile Valdez read her poem to host Marco Werman while The World's Livable Planet editor Peter Thomson recorded her. 


Steven Davy/The World

And it turns out that Ana’s poem was only the beginning of the story of these remarkable fourth graders and their engagement with our show.

“It was almost like a wave had begun,” Rogers said. “We all wrote global warming poems.”

And there were others: poems about a mom and her kid teargassed by border patrol agents at the US-Mexico border. Poems about the economic inequality exposed by the "yellow vest" protests in France. Poems about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and freedom of the press. One about a Japanese man who spent 50 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

Also, these being fourth graders, the death and global influence of the man who created SpongeBob SquarePants.

Most of these are heavy topics. But Rogers says the kids can handle it.

“I think fourth grade is always a grade when they come so young and leave like little adults,” he said. “And learning about sad stories or scary stories, I think, just helps motivate that maturity. And poetry, I think, is the perfect vehicle to have them reflect on it, because it takes away some of the barriers of traditional essay writing."

As for Ana, the girl who got this all rolling with that first poem, she says she was motivated by a simple impulse.

“I’m also a human being, so I really care about the Earth,” she said. “And like, really it’s like, mind-blowing how we just destroyed our Earth. But we can still change, it’s not too late."

Ana and her fourth-grade classmates at the school were inspired by us here at The World, and by Rogers, their teacher.

But man, have we been inspired by them.

A man high fives a child in a school classroom.

Host Marco Werman high-fives a fourth-grader at Curtis Guild Elementary School in East Boston.


Steven Davy/The World

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