Creating a club for a better environment

(TIGARD) — When Zoey Godfrey was a third grader at Templeton Elementary School, she decided she wanted to do something to help slow climate change.

As far as she remembers, 10-year-old Zoey Godfrey’s focus on the environment dates back to kindergarten, when she observed plastics scattered around local waterways. Frequent canoe trips with her family over the years also showed just how much trash is in rivers.

So Godfrey approached her school’s associate principal — Michelle Massar, who became Godfrey’s biggest advocate — to ask if she could start a club at school. Massar said Godfrey could, and before long, the Peace Club was born.

“It’s a club that focuses on the environment, and we try to raise awareness of how much the environment is suffering,” Godfrey said.

Now a fifth grader at Templeton, Godfrey’s Peace Club is in its third year and is the only student-led club at the school.

The club creates lessons on the environment for classroom teachers, which has resulted in a website for Peace Club updates and projects. The Peace Club has also advocated for a districtwide recycling program, and Godfrey ended up meeting with administrators from the Tigard-Tualatin School District to propose her plan.

She’s also directed multiple videos on environmental topics.

“We’ve done some on recycling and raising awareness. I think that awareness one was very special because everyone just says, ‘Leave it to the adults. They’ll handle (it).’ But then we’re going to be the next series of adults, and then (if) there’s nothing done, we’re not going to have an earth anymore,” Godfrey said.

As a third grader, Godfrey wanted to share her environmental concerns with a lawmaker and fired off a letter to U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. The federal legislator shared Godfrey’s concerns about a variety of issues, including the problems caused by microplastics finding their way into marine life.

“Thank you so much for your letter and for sharing your concerns about climate change,” Bonamici wrote. “I’m glad you care about climate change because it’s a very important issue that is affecting Oregon, our country and the world. I have made it a top priority in Congress, and I’m working on our science-based Climate Action Plan. I’m also working on the issue of plastic pollution, especially in the ocean.”

Bonamici ended the letter by writing, “I appreciate your suggestions and ideas you sent. Young people like you inspire me to fight for the health of our planet and protect our environment for generations to come,” adding that she hoped Godfrey would continue to advocate for creating a balanced ecosystem.

Godfrey is currently in the process of ensuring the Peace Club continues when she moves to middle school next year and has been meeting with middle school students, teachers and administrators to ensure that happens.

Godfrey’s environmental activism over the years has been inspired by numerous people, including primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall, who is considered by many to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

“I just love that she proved everyone wrong, like saying that chimps do use tools … she’s so amazing,” said Godfrey.

Another of Godfrey’s inspirations is Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who has been challenging world leaders to take action on climate change since she was 15 years old.

Godfrey said she admires Thunberg’s youth and that “nobody before that really thought that a kid could do so much in the world, but then she came out there and proved everyone wrong, that young kids actually can make a change.”

The Templeton Elementary School student also practices what she preaches by attending work parties at a forested area near her house, where she and others volunteer to strip invasive plants off trees and plant new greenery.

For the future, Godfrey said she’d like to do more to learn about animals and advocate for the environment.

When she’s not working for environmental change, Godfrey spends her free time in acting classes and reads extensively on various animals and natural elements.

In addition to being a Girl Scout, Godfrey has competed in the regional competition for the Oregon Battle of the Books, where her school has won twice.

Godfrey also is a big fan of “Jeopardy,” the nightly game show.

“I love that it quizzes you, and I’ve gotten a lot of environmental categories right,” she said.


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