YOLO Teens Talk Light Pollution

Rosalía Lugo Teen Programs Manager

Youth Organization for Lights Out (YOLO) is a STEM civic action program created to empower high school youth to advocate within their community about a single environmental issue: light pollution.

The program began in a biology class at World Language High School located in Chicago’s South Lawndale neighborhood. It has evolved into an afterschool program in partnership with Adler Planetarium’s Teen Programs that also includes a classroom component.

Students from the biology class at World Language High School. This was their first showcase in 2016.

Students in YOLO are environmental activists in their community and are committed to teaching the next generation so they too can be empowered.

As part of the program, YOLO takes students out of the city of Chicago and into the darkness of the Indiana Dunes for a night field trip to collect data on darkness lYOevels. Many students have not left Chicago and this is their first time seeing many stars in the night sky.

I recently sat down with some of our students and had a conversation with them about why they’re involved with the program and what they have to say about being light pollution advocates. Here’s what they had to say!

Q: Why did you decide to take part in the YOLO program?

Joined Fall 2016

“In freshman year I wasn’t aware of the negative effects [light pollution has on] animals and people. But when I was informed, I wanted to make others aware too.”

Joined Fall 2017

“I decided to take part in the YOLO program to learn new things about Earth, our planets, and the atmosphere.”

And she has! YOLO students make a lot of connections with each other and the leadership they work with. They’ve also learned how to properly use telescopes!

YOLO students getting telescopes ready for solar viewing at World Language High School during report card pick up.

Q: Out of the events you’ve been working on this year, which one has been your favorite and why?

Joined 2016

“My favorite event was Earthfest because I got the chance to inform people about light pollution.”

YOLO has been an active participant in the Adler’s annual Earthfest since 2016. The students get the chance to speak with Adler guests—including interacting with guests who only speak Spanish. (All YOLO students are bilingual in English and Spanish.) YOLO member Giovanni also enjoys Earthfest. He loves interacting with people and informing them how we can work together to improve our Earth.

At this year’s Earthfest, students presented two games they created that taught guests about light pollution. Kahoot! is an online game-based platform that allows for fun learning. The students created a version of Kahoot! with light pollution information. They also created Match, a card game with images and words for younger kids to learn about light pollution!

YOLO teens at this year’s Earthfest playing Kahoot! with guests.

Q: What is the one thing you’d tell someone who has no idea what light pollution is?

Joined Spring 2017

“To someone who’s unaware of what light pollution causes and what it is, I’d start off with the most basic facts. Light pollution is when there’s an excessive amount of light being used and it’s also the reason why you can’t see the stars at night. I would also go further on and explain the effects of light pollution in our health and the environment. I would explain how the shielding and the type of light plays a huge role on light pollution.”

Q: If you had no barriers to change something that is affected by light pollution what would that change be?

Joined Spring 2017

“I’d target the research field. I remember hearing from a speaker who has made fighting light pollution her life mission. She mentioned her annoyance with corruption within light pollution studies and being keen on what studies to trust and which not to. This was a moment that left me feeling deeply unsettled and bothered to this day. I’d change this so that all studies must not be influenced by outside forces.”

The next stop for YOLO teens is on Friday, May 24, at La Villita Park for Una Noche Bajo Las Estrella (A Night Under the Stars). From 8:00-10:00 pm, YOLO students will join teens from other Adler teen programs to facilitate a night sky observing event. Guests are invited to #LookUp through telescopes, learn about light pollution in Chicago, observe how street lighting affects our cities, and more. We hope to see you there!

**Update Thursday, May 23: Due to weather, the event at La Villita Park has been delayed. It will be rescheduled for fall 2019.

YOLO teens at Earthfest 2017. They spoke about the Loss of the Night app. Anybody can contribute to this world-wide citizen science project by looking for stars.
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Rosalía Lugo Teen Programs Manager

A true believer in the potential of working-class youth of color, Rosalía Lugo has been working, during the last eight years, on the building of bridges between STEM fields and Chicago’s urban youth communities, mainly among high school students from the South/Southwest side of Chicago. She has presented her work on light pollution, environmentalism, youth activism, college access, and community participation in various professional conferences both regionally and nationally. She received both her master’s in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership and Bachelor of Science in Community Health and Latina/Latino Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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