Elgin High School students, teachers create webinars on biodiversity

  • Elgin High senior Julia Korzeniowski holds the 2017 Nature of Force award that the school's biodiversity team won from Chicago Wilderness for its outstanding educational program.

    Elgin High senior Julia Korzeniowski holds the 2017 Nature of Force award that the school's biodiversity team won from Chicago Wilderness for its outstanding educational program. Courtesy of Ana Pascual

 
 
Posted2/7/2020 6:00 AM

Years before Greta Thunberg brought the perils of our planet more clearly onto a global stage, a group of Elgin High School students was doing their part to create awareness and understanding of biodiversity.

For the past six years, these environmental science students and their teachers have organized a series of free webinars on how our living creatures great and small interact on our planet through what they call the National Biodiversity Teach In.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The interactive, one-hour webinars on the Zoom platform feature scientists, grassroots organizations and activists. One might consider this a high school student project simply for the benefit of high school students, but those involved want community members to link in and ask questions.

The webinars are scheduled at 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. each Friday in February, starting Feb. 7. You can find past webinars on the NBTI YouTube channel. Interested persons can listen to the webinars by registering through the nationalbiodiversityteachin.com website.

But what is biodiversity, you might ask?

"The webinars originally covered animals, hence the biodiversity name, but we have evolved with the times and realized that sometimes presenters must go in-depth on our planet and how changes on the planet put these animals in danger," said senior Ana Pascual, a member of the NBTI communications team. As such, webinars could cover everything from global water, clean energy, climate change, polar ecosystems and soil.

From left, students Jessica Nino, Lindsey Anderson and Jessica Thomas work with instructor Brittney Mallen in plotting marketing strategies for Elgin High School's biodiversity team.
From left, students Jessica Nino, Lindsey Anderson and Jessica Thomas work with instructor Brittney Mallen in plotting marketing strategies for Elgin High School's biodiversity team. - Courtesy of Ana Pascual
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It takes about three months for the three teachers and 68 students, set in different teams after securing presenters, working within NBTI to put together the webinars. If that work isn't enough, consider that NBTI promotes itself through a website team, a marketing team and a communications team.

"We can track how many people are watching when they register, and last year we had 25,000 participants, but it's been down compared to years prior," Pascual said. "Our goal is 50,000 viewers this year."

The students are "trying to bring about change in whatever way we can," Pascual said. "If out of all of our viewers, only one were to pay attention to what's happening to our planet, we would count it as a success." That's the sort of thing you will hear from students who are motivated by Thunberg and her cause.

"I would say that we are all very motivated and inspired by Greta Thunberg, but also by the amount of activists who have risen up these past few years and brought light to the current state our planet is in," Pascual added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The team has been so impressed with Thunberg that one student tried to reach out to her to see if she would consider being a presenter in one of the webinars.

"Unfortunately for NBTI, but fortunately for our planet, Greta has bigger fish to fry out there," Pascual said.

Left out Albright:

How do you forget about Holly Golightly when listing some of the interesting events at our area theaters?

I did it last week when forgetting to mention the Albright Community Theatre in Batavia, which has been pleasing attendees for years in its spot above the police department on the third floor of the city's government center at 100 N. Island Ave. The theater's next performance is "Breakfast at Tiffany's," of which Holly is the main character, to be on stage Fridays and Saturdays in February, with a Sunday performance as well on Feb. 23.

Tickets can be purchased at the theater or on its website.

Devoted golf instructors:

A couple of guys who've put their mark on local golf years have deservedly earned the attention of their profession.

Dennis Johnsen, the head pro at Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein, spent many years in this region, including time at Pottawatomie Golf Course and then the Pheasant Run Resort golf course. Of course, Johnsen lived in St. Charles much of his life and graduated from St. Charles High School.

He earned the 2016 PGA Youth Player Development Award for his more than 40 years of teaching young people how to play the game.

And he most recently nominated his friend Rich Flores for the Illinois PGA Deacon Palmer award, a relatively new honor that goes to a person who has overcome obstacles to remain active in teaching golf.

Flores, also a St. Charles High School graduate, certainly fits that bill, having been sidelined by a blood disease called cardiac amyloidosis 10 years ago and continues getting chemo treatments to this day.

"The honor was first given out in 2013, and I'm the first from Illinois to receive it, so that's really nice," said Flores, who continues to give lessons in his "Swing Shop" instruction center with equipment and simulators in the garage of his Batavia home.

"The business has been going well, and I'm doing OK with my health," Flores said. "I get chemo every five weeks now, rather than every four weeks. It still takes it out of me, but it's better than four weeks."

In addition to his love of the game, a passion for sticking with it through health issues, and producing numerous fine local golfers, Flores deserves an award for something else quite difficult: He's probably spent more time than any other local coach trying to straighten out my golf swing.

Like everything else he's done in his life when he got the "Mission Impossible" message about trying to make me a better player, he accepted it with open arms and prepared to climb that extremely high mountain.

Those Oscars:

I haven't been accurate in my predictions of which film will win best picture at the Oscars the past few years, but I can say this about many of this year's choices: They either wear you out emotionally or physically.

My favorite is "Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood," though I don't expect it to grab the top spot Sunday night. And I do have to say that "1917" had me worn out at the end, so the British troops were lucky I wasn't the guy they sent out near enemy lines to deliver a critically important message.

And even though it is not up for best picture, the one movie I think everyone needs to see is "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood."

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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