It’s an auspicious beginning for budding animator Ivy Wang.
The Grade 9 Seaquam Secondary student claimed the top spot both in the national and international Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) competitions with her three-minute video highlighting the issue of plastic pollution.
Even more impressive is the fact that the project, which took her about two weeks to complete, was her first attempt at animation, a skill she taught herself over winter break by watching YouTube.
“A lot of the YouTubers I watch know how to do animation and I think that’s really cool,” Wang said. “So I told myself I could learn animation, which is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and somehow apply it to my project so people can like it just as much as I like watching those videos.”
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YRE is a program sponsored by the United Nations and the Foundation for Environmental Education that “aims to empower young people to take a stand on environmental issues they feel strongly about and to give them a platform to articulate these issues through the media of writing, photography or video,” according to the YRE website.
Wang got involved in the program through her social studies teacher Michael Iachetta, who runs Delta’s YRE program and is also the teacher-sponsor for the Seaquam Environment Club and the Delta Youth Sustainable Network (a group that brings together the environment clubs from various Delta high schools).
Iachetta gave his students the option of either doing a project on the industrial revolution or a YRE entry about the impacts of industrialization. Wang chose the latter because she thought it would “be more interesting, instead of making a boring poster, to learn something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time and make an interesting video.”
Wang’s video takes the shape of a conversation between a teacher and his students, with the educator talking about ways to solve plastic pollution and the kids asking questions that “actual students would ask in real life.”
“It’s about how to solve plastic pollution, like how to be more environmentally friendly and conscious, and how we can try to improve it through our just tiny actions in our daily lives that makes a huge impact on the whole world,” Wang said.
“Even though as an individual … it may seem like you can’t make a huge change since there are billions of people, you actually can, because if we all work together and try our best we can make a huge change in this world.”
Wang’s video was among 178 other entries in the international competition from 30 different countries. Around 40,000 students worldwide participated in their countries’ national contests.
Seaquam had seven students place in the top three in their respective categories at this year’s national competition, and 28 who did the same over the past three years. But it’s the first time that one of the school’s students has come in first at the world level.
“I was actually really shocked because I didn’t think I would win at all,” Wang said. “I was thinking there’s so many other kids out there that probably are better at talking and delivering messages and are way smarter in vocabulary, so when I found out I won I felt really honoured because I’ve never really won anything before.”
Past winners at Seaquam have presented their projects at environmental conferences and symposiums, and visited local elementary schools to speak with the students, something Iachetta said is an important part of the program.
“With us it’s about not just what are you doing, but what are you prepared to do outside of it. So we want them to go to the elementary school and not just present [their projects] but take the kids on a clean-up and go [take] further steps,” he said.
Wang, he said, is starting to do the same.
“She was sort of a really shy student, she’d never talk in class, but with this we’ve just seen this whole other side of her kind of bust open and come out, so that’s been the coolest,” Iachetta said.
With summer break upon her, Wang said she’s planning to continue making videos and improving her skills, though she’s unsure what the subject of her next piece will be.
“I’m a very random person so I guess whatever crosses my mind,” she said.
“After winning this I realized I can do stuff I love and be an inspiration at the same time.”
The six other Seaquam students to place in the top three at the national competition are:
• Brendan Smith and Keaghyn King, who placed second in the photo category (ages 11-14):
• Sukhmandip Kang, Sereena Dhindsa and Inderaj Prihar, who placed second in the video category (ages 11-14):
• Megan Nguyen, who placed second in the article category (ages 15-18):