Climate Stories on Film at Paul Robeson High School

February 9, 2024

As part of her Public Research Internship with My Climate Story (MCS) in 2022-23, Christy Choo (UPenn, C ‘24) directed a short documentary capturing the Climate Stories of teachers and students at Paul Robeson High School in West Philadelphia. 

MCS is an ongoing public climate storytelling and story sharing project supported by PPEH.  The project sparks climate conversations and guides participants of all ages to recognize how local climate impacts are impacting their lives in the here and now--and shaping their life stories. 

PPEH and MCS are thrilled to debut this documentary Climate Story along with this Field Notes introduction from Christy. Watch the full documentary short here— happy viewing!

By Christy Choo

During my junior year, I was a Public Research Intern with My Climate Story and had the wonderful opportunity to create a documentary showcasing local climate stories. As an Earth Science major passionate about film, policy, and climate education, directing a documentary provided the perfect medium to intertwine my interests with the mission of MCS. Through working with the MCS team and our Philadelphia Climate Classrooms for the entire academic year, I knew that I wanted to highlight the individual climate stories of the teachers and students we partnered with.

A brick school with a sign on the front reading, "Paul Robeson High School for Human Services."."

The main entrance to Paul Robeson High School.

When I pitched the documentary idea to Dr. Wiggin (Founding Faculty Director, PPEH), she immediately recommended that I reach out to Maria Carambo, a history teacher at Paul Robeson High School. Paul Robeson is a district-run high school located in West Philadelphia and home to one of the nine classrooms we collaborated with. Throughout my visits, I was drawn to the contrast between the poor building conditions – there was no air conditioning, only one out of two water fountains was working, the classrooms were overfilled, and it was 90 degrees inside in the middle of January – and the loving environment the teachers and students created.

Students work together around a table in a classroom.

Maria Carambo’s history class working on a climate activity.

Thus, I was compelled to create this short documentary to highlight their experiences with climate change impacting their daily lives at school. Their experiences are unfortunately not uncommon in Philadelphia, and I wanted to provide students and teachers at this school with a platform to share their stories. In this documentary, I interview Kayden Perry (a student in the class of 2025), Daniel Reyes (a Spanish teacher), and Maria Carambo about their experiences with climate challenges at Paul Robeson.

A woman holds up a student made poster with dos and donts for a healthy Earth.

Maria Carambo holding up one of her student’s climate story projects.

Ultimately, as a Penn student who primarily studies climate change through a scientific lens, I found it extremely valuable to engage with the issue from education and humanities viewpoints. These perspectives enrich our understanding of the relationship between humans and our planet. By listening to the eye-opening stories and inspiring ideas that the students and teachers had at Paul Robeson, I was able to explore the environment from a personal and local perspective. I hope this film will encourage viewers to think differently about how they view environmental challenges and reflect on how climate change is impacting them, too!