2016 YRE WorkshopOne of the groups most passionate about protecting the environment is our youth. But, what can they do to get involved and get their voices heard?

That was the focus on May 27th, when 25 students and eight teachers from British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Ontario gathered in Toronto for the 2nd annual Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) Canada National Workshop.

If you haven’t heard about YRE before, it’s a national environmental education program that encourages youth (ages 11-18) to investigate solutions to local environmental issues and share what they’ve learned through writing, photography, and video. The program operates in 30 countries around the world and Environmental Defence administers the program in Canada. As part of YRE, students can submit their work into a national competition for a chance to win prizes, which this year included an invitation to participate in the workshop.

At the event, which took place at the Evergreen Brickworks, this year’s winners and their teachers had the opportunity to learn more about environmental issues and how to spread the word by using various media. They heard stories and received mentorship from environmentalists and media professionals. In the morning, Tim Gray, Executive Director for Environmental Defence, spoke about how he got started in the environmental sector. He was followed up by The Water Brothers who shared their experiences as filmmakers exploring water issues around the world.

In the afternoon, Marie Nicola, the face behind the Toronto-based blog Karmacake.com, spoke to the students about blogging and how to start their own blogs. Then Ashley Wallis, Environmental Defence’s Blue Flag Program Manager, did a presentation about the Blue Flag program in Canada. Afterward, the students took their new knowledge about the program and blogging and put it into action by trying their hand at writing blog entries about Blue Flag.

The day wrapped up with a tour around the Brickworks grounds and then an awards ceremony, where the students received their additional prizes and applause from their peers. Overall, it was an incredible day of sharing ideas, learning, new friendships, gaining more leadership skills, and feeling more empowered to be a voice for our environment. Keep a look out for more photos from the event!

The next YRE Canada National Competition kicks off this fall. Are you a teacher or a student and would like to get involved? Visit youngreporters.ca for more information.