Under the colorful fluorescent lights, a sea of high school students dressed in white and black suits, dresses and blazers gather at the Tech Museum. From National Geographic explorers to MVHS administration to climate change experts, visitors swarmed around the myriad of exhibits and projects that students have been working on for weeks.
On Thurs. May 18, MVHS students, faculty and parents gathered at the Tech Museum in Downtown San Jose for “Earth Deconstructed.” Organized by Monta Vista, this event was created based on the documentary film “Before the Flood,” which explores the topic of climate change through various different lenses. Using the medium of their choice, students worked on projects to showcase their views on climate change.
The event began with the audience gathering in an auditorium with senior Avni Prasad as MC, who later introduced senior Krishna Sunder as her co-host, after tricking the audience that award winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio was at the event, who was originally invited to the event by the MVHS staff as he is known to be a strong advocate for climate change. Afterwards, MVHS Advanced Drama put on a short skit on climate change, titled “We’re All in the Same Boat,” which was created using quotes from the original movie “Before the Flood.” Then, junior Ilena Peng and senior Mingjie Zhong asked a series of questions to a panel of five experts ( on climate change. And the grande finale was when the students from all over campus presented their projects in the downstairs lobby.
On one end of the room was the Art exhibit, with various paintings and sculptures. Towards the middle of the lobby was the French Department’s presentations about the European Union’s steps toward conservation and how they can be applied to the U.S.. There was also a booth for Freshman Literature and Writing, in which the group explored the story The Odyssey. On the other end were a series of tables with trifolds and powerpoints showcasing students’ in depth research in a certain climate change issue of their choosing. On top of that, there were booths where students in the AP US History class explored issues of climate change.
Junior Jeremi Kalkowski, a student in AP US History, presented about coal. All of the students in the class were assigned to write a research paper on any issue and those who picked a topic relating to climate change presented at the event. Kalkowski described how they were at the event to bring awareness to the effects of coal on the environment.
“It’s about coal, the wonderful energetic rock from dead animals from millions of years ago that… pollutes our air,” said Kalkowski. “Our project was not to find a solution, ours was to educate the public because everyone knows how bad coal is, but we’re not actually going to tell them what to do about it.”
Across from Kalkowski’s booth was a group of students from AP Chemistry presenting on the science behind climate change. One of the AP Chemistry students presenting at the event was junior Jonathan Ho, presented about about sustainable lifestyles. Ho compiled research by watching multiple documentaries about climate change, including the event’s basis: the film “Before the Flood.” In the weeks prior to the event, Ho prepared with his group to create a presentation, which they first presented to his fourth period AP Chemistry class and later presented at the Tech Museum.
“Having events like this are really important because it spreads awareness about a serious topic such as climate change,” Ho said. “My favorite part of this event was getting to know some of my peers better. We had a lot of fun working together.”
Amongst the many visitors at the event was MVHS Alumnus of Class of 2011, Jordan Lim. Lim is a part of the National Geographic “Explorer Classroom” team that travels to different classrooms across the country and connects students with National Geographic Explorers. Earlier that day, Lim visited AP Chemistry teacher Kavita Gupta’s 4th and 5th period classes to allow them participate in the “Explorer Classroom”. MVHS has changed in many ways since Lim graduated, as he explained how he would have never had an event like this when he was in high school.
“When I was in school, people were not thinking about [climate change]as much and that idea that we all had a role to play in climate change, I don’t think that was being emphasized enough,” Lim said. “And that’s not at fault for any MVHS educator, I just think that’s how the national narrative has changed but I’m happy MVHS is changing alongside that national narrative.”
Lim also talked about how these kinds of events allow for students to take control of their own learning because they’re put in charge of researching and organizing their projects.
“It’s molding that idea of community engagement with multidisciplinary work and giving kids the opportunity to do hands on learning,” Lim said. “[Students are] taking control of not only what they’re learning but being put in the driver’s seat where they’re teaching kids as well.”
Additional Reporting by Zazu Lippert and Kalpana Gopalkrishnan