Sofia Rubcich, a fifth-grade student at Moorestown Upper Elementary School, and her teacher Jamie Baron were named 2022 Environmental Champion Award recipients for the Redford Center Stories Challenge.
The challenge is described as a contest that provides educators and students with dynamic, integrative and no-cost tools to actively engage in the movement for environmental justice, protection and repair.
Co-founded in 2005 by actor Robert Redford and his son James, the Redford Center uses storytelling to galvanize justice and regeneration. Every year, the center’s film challenge is open to students in grades five through 12 who are each required to create a 90-second environmental film that paints a hopeful portrait of the future and one that inspires action.
Rubcich’s short film, “Our Choice,” addresses the climate crisis and ways people can make a difference for the environment through action. She wants her movie to inspire others as they contemplate what they can do about environmental issues.
“What I really want them to do is to spread more awareness, because not too many people know about the climate crisis, and I think if more people did, then more people would speak up about it,” Rubcich said.
“If more people speak up about it, then (there will be) no more climate crisis.”
Baron is an investigative math, challenge and math support teacher who also teaches the challenge group at Upper Elementary. She explained how she got her students involved in the Redford Center Stories Challenge.
“I have always really been interested in the environment and protecting the environment with all my other classes leading up to now, and so this year was a good opportunity to take my challenge class to the next level with the environment,” Baron explained.
“Last year, I had also introduced it to my class as kind of an optional assignment … and that so kind of sparked my interest in making it more of a long-term assignment,” she added.
When Baron’s student group met weekly, they discussed environmental issues such as plastic pollution, deforestation and fossil fuel burning, then wrote scripts that would fit the narrative of their videos.
Baron said the Redford Center challenge benefits students in more ways than one.
“I thought this was a really good opportunity for these kids in here to be able to use their creativity and innovation and motivation to put their full hearts into the project and try their best,” she said. “And we were so excited that one of our students won one of the awards.”
Rubcich detailed how she filmed “Our Choice” using current technology.
“After we filmed the video, I got my iPad, I got my laptop and I started editing,” she recalled. “I used iMovie, because when I was younger, I would use (it) for everything … I showed it to my parents and they were very supportive of me, so that made me really happy.”
The student and Baron learned they received the award right around Earth Day and the latter shared what came about.
“A school composting initiative was born because of this, so with the Redford Stories contest and thinking about the environment, thinking about waste and landfills and the problems that that causes … Sofia’s group and another group had the idea of, ‘Let’s start a composting initiative,’ the teacher noted.
“ … In a way, the whole point was to stir up some action and to motivate people to do some action,” she added. “And in a way, it motivated us to take action as well just on a small school level, and so far it’s been pretty successful.”
Rubcich wants her film to influence her community.
“I really want them to know and be aware about what’s going on in our atmosphere and in our environment … how everything is being affected, even us,” she offered.
“We really just have to stand up and (not) rock the boat for everyone else.”