(BALTIMORE)—The National Aquarium is proud to announce the winner of its 2018 Promise for the Planet award, 14-year-old Kallan Benson of Crownsville, Maryland. The National Aquarium's Promise for the Planet award is a new accolade for youth, by youth, that recognizes an individual student or group of students who are leading ocean conservation initiatives that significantly impact or affect change within their community, state or district.
Benson, an active and founding member of the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis, was nominated by several members of her community for her project, "The Butterfly Effect: Amplifying Kids Concerns About Climate Change." In an effort to powerfully represent her peers' concerns about climate change and inspire leaders to take action, Benson collaborated with students across the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metropolitan areas to create an artistic parachute banner filled with their thoughts, signatures and illustrations. Her vision, a giant monarch butterfly, was brought to life through the contributions of her peers, creating a powerful statement carried by participants at the 2017 People's Climate March in Washington, D.C.
"Kallan is leading the way for youth to join in voicing their concerns and in solving this existential threat to human civilization," said Philip Favero with the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis in his nomination. "Kallan inspires adults and other young climate stewards to become engaged, use our artistic and creative talents and face the problem of global warming with hope and resolve."
Benson is now extending the project to inspire youth across the world to create their own parachutes through "Parachutes for the Planet." She is encouraging other young people to share their concerns, thoughts, ideas and potential solutions for climate change to create a visual display in Washington, D.C., on Earth Day 2018.
"Inspiring the next generation of hopeful conservationists is an integral part of our mission at the National Aquarium," says Chief Conservation Officer Kris Hoellen. "It is our pleasure to recognize the outstanding commitment and creativity Kallan has shown as a leader among her peers and as an environmental advocate. The future of our ocean planet is brighter thanks to passionate youth like her."
Benson will be recognized at the 2018 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit (YOCS) - Baltimore, held at the National Aquarium on Earth Day, April 22. YOCS is an annual event created to provide youth participants the opportunity to learn from marine scientists and conservationists about the current threats facing marine ecosystems, both locally and globally.
Keynote speakers for this year's event include Lynne Cherry, award-winning children's book author and illustrator, and Elizabeth Dahl, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at Loyola University Maryland. Workshops offered at the summit allow youth to gain the skills necessary to successfully implement conservation projects, learn about career opportunities in marine conservation, and be exposed to opportunities to help protect the ocean and its inhabitants.