Confronting climate change aboard a floating classroom


Students with Woodland Park Zoo's Summer Youth Climate Action Network visit the wheelhouse of a King County Water Taxi vessel.The King County Water Taxi functioned as a floating classroom recently for a firsthand lesson on how King County is confronting climate change.

On an unusually hot day on the waterfront, in the midday hours when our vessels are docked, the Marine Division hosted 13 high-schoolers from the Woodland Park Zoo’s Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (Seattle Youth CAN). They boarded the Sally Fox for our new “Floating Classroom” program, designed to engage students of all ages in environmental and climate change education, and introduce them to internship and job opportunities in both King County and our region’s maritime industry.

KCDOT Director Harold Taniguchi praised the students for their commitment to addressing climate change, and advised them to be thoughtful in how they pursued their future careers, “Luck is where opportunity meets preparedness,” he said. “Always work hard, learn as much as possible, and be ready when an opportunity comes your way.”

Students then learned about King County’s climate actions from Alex Adams, KCDOT’s Climate Change and Energy Manger, Senior Climate Change Specialist Matt Kuharic, and Climate Engagement Specialist Jamie Stroble. The three highlighted some of the actions and steps we can all take, such as taking public transit, conserving resources like electricity and water, and preparing now for the changes we’re already seeing in our region, like warmer, rainier winters and longer heat waves, and stronger storms and flooding.

“Climate change is a problem that isn’t going away soon and we need smart young leaders like you to help develop innovative solutions to reduce emissions and help our communities adapt” said Adams.

Stroble said her motivation for a career in climate change action was simple. “I’m doing this work because I know it’s going to impact all of our families and the communities we live in and love.”

The Seattle Youth CAN group toured the wheelhouse of the Sally Fox and learned about the Water Taxi’s state-of-the-art navigation systems from Captain Neil Amaral, and about maritime job opportunities from Ron Panzero, Water Taxi Operations and Maintenance Manager. Students then boarded the Doc Maynard for a round trip to West Seattle, where they cooled down on the upper deck and enjoyed lunch on the open water. See their day compressed into this 52-second video:

We hope to continue this program and use the Water Taxi as a versatile educational platform that adds new community value, introduces or advances career pathways, and increases climate literacy, with no impact to regular service.

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