Wake Forest University Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) board member, Dr. Michelle Klosterman, and CEES Fellow, Sarah DuPont, joined students at Wiley Magnet Middle School on Friday, February 26 for a screening of the film River of Gold.

This award-winning documentary film produced by DuPont, President and Founder of the Amazon Aid Foundation, chronicles the impact of illegal gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon. Its goal is to educate students and create awareness of the importance of the Amazon rainforest and the global effects caused by its destruction. CEES director Dr. Miles Silman, a tropical conservation specialist and expert on the Amazon, also served as a consultant for the film.

When asked about why she created the film, Sarah DuPont noted that, “The goal of Amazon Aid’s film River of Gold is to not only educate audiences of all ages about the importance of the Amazon, but to inspire people to engage in long-term solutions for protecting this critical ecosystem. It is knowledge that gives you power. People often ask me what gives me hope. For me, it is the youth of the world, our future leaders, who not only have great skills for collaboration and problem solving, but can also think with their heart, carrying the capabilities for compassion to all living beings.”

Following the film screening, Klosterman and DuPont answered questions during a Q&A session about the Amazon and the Amazonian Center for Environmental Restoration and Sustainability (ACERS). CEES is partnering with the US and Peruvian governments to create and implement ACERS to address a human ecological disaster of the illegal gold mining activities. Klosterman, a specialist in education and scientific communication, is leading the efforts of ACERS alongside Silman and Stanford colleague, Dr. Luis Fernandez.

Klosterman, who also serves as Director of Academic Development and Assessment in the Provost Office for Global Affairs, shared the importance of building awareness of global scientific issues among adolescents, “We know that students’ attitudes toward and interest in science are developed at a very young age. We also know that with challenges like we’re seeing in the Amazon, we need long-term solutions that require us to engage the younger generation. That’s why it’s so important for scientists and artists like Sarah DuPont to collaborate to build global awareness among teens.”

Wiley Middle School uses a STEAM educational approach, combining the core subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics for guiding students’ curriculum. Principal Lisa Bodenheimer and Assistant Principal Leigh Walters agree that “STEAM has provided educators with the opportunity to assist students to make interdisciplinary and global connections using the design process of imagining, planning, creating, and improving the world through inquiry. What a wonderful illustration of the design process in action and at work through today’s presentation.”